According to a report in the Washington Post, FBI agents involved in the investigation of Anthony Weiner’s sexting relationship with an underage girl told agents working on the Clinton email case about the emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin weeks before informing the director.
There has been no explanation for the delay.
Given that the Clinton email team knew for weeks that it may have cause to resume its work, it is unclear why investigators did not tell Comey sooner. People familiar with the case said they had known about the messages since soon after New York FBI agents seized a computer related to their investigation into former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who is alleged to have exchanged explicit messages with a 15-year-old girl. Weiner is the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and federal law enforcement officials said they think the computer was used by both of them.
A public revelation in early October might have been less politically damaging for Clinton than one coming less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election. It is also unclear what agents have been doing in the intervening time — for instance, whether they were trying to learn more about the emails before notifying Comey. An FBI spokesman declined to immediately provide a statement.
A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll found that more than 6 in 10 likely voters said the FBI’s announcement would make no difference in their vote. A little more than 3 in 10 said the news made them less likely to support Clinton, though about two-thirds of those were Republicans or Republican-leaning independents.
Provided they get the legal authority to do so, investigators will be looking at whether the newly uncovered emails contain classified information or other evidence that could help advance the Clinton email probe. It is possible, though, that the messages could be duplicative of others already recovered elsewhere or that they could be a collection of benign, personal notes.
Legislators on both sides of the political aisle are likely to raise questions about why the team investigating Clinton’s private email took so long to brief Comey. Clinton and her backers have pushed aggressively for the bureau to release more information about its findings and criticized the agency for making its work public without knowing more.
Abedin has told friends that she rarely used Weiner’s computer and claims she has no idea how they ended up on the laptop.
The FBI wants to approach Abedin’s attorneys about her voluntarily turning over the laptop. But it might not be that easy.
Government lawyers haven’t yet approached Abedin’s lawyers to seek an agreement to conduct the search. Sources earlier told CNN that those discussions had begun, but the law enforcement officials now say they have not.
Either way, government lawyers plan to seek a search warrant from a judge to conduct the search of the computer, the law enforcement officials said.
The issue is complicated because the computer is considered to belong to Weiner, and the case may raise spousal privilege legal protections for Abedin.
Government lawyers hope to secure the warrant to permit investigators to review thousands of emails on a computer Abedin shared with Weiner, officials said.
The new search warrant is needed because the existing authorization, covered by a subpoena, related only to the ongoing investigation of Weiner, who is accused of having sexually explicit communications with an underage girl.
Investigators from the FBI’s New York field office who are conducting the Weiner investigation stumbled on the Abedin emails while they were reviewing emails and other communications on the computer, which was considered to belong to Weiner, the officials said. They stopped their work and called in the team of investigators from FBI headquarters who conducted the probe of Clinton’s private email server.
Questions about this abound, but one big question may have been answered. Agents investigating Weiner who had read the emails realized they were pertinent to the Clinton investigation, prompting Comey to inform Congress. Comey may not have read the emails, but his agents did and informed him of their relevance.
Attention now turns to the courts and whether a judge will give the FBI the warrant they need to examine the files. Somehow, I don’t think Huma Abedin wants the FBI rummaging around her communications with Hillary Clinton, especially since she claims she had no idea the emails were archived on her husband’s laptop and, presumably, doesn’t know what their content is.
It’s doubtful the bureau will get much cooperation on that front.
ABC News is reporting that the FBI has obtained the warrant necessary to start reviewing the Abedin emails.