WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The FBI said it stood by its earlier recommendation that no criminal charges were warranted against Democrat Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server for government work, lifting a cloud over her presidential campaign two days before the US election.
FBI Director James Comey made the announcement on Sunday (Nov 6) in a letter to Congress, saying the agency had worked “around the clock” to complete its review of newly discovered e-mails and found no reason to change its July finding.
“During that process, we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state,” Comey said. “We have not changed our conclusions expressed in July.”
A law enforcement source told Reuters the conclusion closes for now the FBI probe of Clinton’s e-mail practices.
Comey informed Congress of the newly discovered e-mails more than a week ago, throwing the race for the White House into turmoil and eroding Clinton’s lead over Republican candidate Donald Trump in the final stretch before Tuesday’s (Nov 8) vote.
“We’re glad this issue is resolved but for the record, this could easily have been learned before 1st letter was sent,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon wrote on Twitter.
Republicans, however, did not ease up on their criticism of Clinton.
“She simply believes she’s above the law and always plays by her own rules,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement, arguing that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server “compromised our national security”.
US stock index futures rose more than 1 per cent after the FBI announcement, suggesting Wall Street is poised to end its longest skid in more than three decades. The US dollar also jumped in Asian trading against the yen, euro and Swiss franc.
Global financial markets last week slipped as polls showed the presidential race tightening.
REPUBLICANS RENEW CRITICISM
The latest e-mails were discovered as part of a separate probe of former Democratic US Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Weiner is the target of an FBI investigation into illicit text messages he is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. Federal investigators got a warrant a week ago to examine the e-mails to see if they were related to the probe into Clinton’s private server. Democrats reacted angrily to Comey’s intrusion into the race and demanded quick action in examining the e-mails.
“I am very grateful to the professionals at the FBI for doing an extraordinary amount of high-quality work in a short period of time,” Comey said on Sunday.
But Democrats did not let Comey and the FBI off the hook. US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said Sunday’s announcement made Comey’s earlier letter “even more troubling” for creating a false impression about the inquiry.
“I believe the Justice Department needs to take a look at its procedures to prevent similar actions that could influence future elections,” she said.
Trump, who has hammered Clinton over the issue, arguing it was proof she is corrupt and untrustworthy, did not mention the decision at a rally in Minneapolis right after it was announced.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus said that while the probe had not led to criminal charges, it produced evidence that Clinton broke the law and “repeatedly lied to the American people about her reckless conduct”.
News of the renewed probe hurt Clinton’s poll numbers, with Trump cutting into her once formidable lead. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Clinton with a 5 percentage point lead over the New York businessman in the national survey – 44 per cent to 39 per cent support – while races in the swing states of Florida and North Carolina have shifted from favouring Clinton to being too close to call.
The Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project estimates that Clinton has a 90 per cent chance of winning the election.