FBI Search Warrant Stirs Renewed Focus on Revived Clinton Probe

By Nate Raymond White House Reuters

Search warrant documents released on Tuesday related to the probe of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email setup stirred fresh controversy about the FBI's decision to revive the investigation days before the Nov. 8 election.

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The materials, which related to a search warrant issued after Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey on Oct. 28 informed Congress of the emails, were ordered released on Monday by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan.

Comey's letter drew new attention to Clinton's use of the server while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 and roiled the campaign 11 days before the election, which Republican Donald Trump won.

Clinton has blamed Comey and his letter for her defeat.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent said there was "probable cause" to believe emails between Clinton and a person whose name was redacted were among "thousands" found on a laptop that contained U.S. State Department correspondence.

But the filings gave no indication the FBI had any evidence at the time of Comey's letter that any of the emails on the laptop involved classified communications with Clinton, raising fresh questions about Comey's decision to issue his letter.

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David Kendall, Clinton's lawyer, said the documents showed the "extraordinary impropriety" of Comey's letter, which "produced devastating but predictable damage politically and which was both legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary."

The FBI declined to comment.

The laptop belonged to former Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin who was the subject of an investigation after a report about cellphone and online messages he sent a 15-year-old girl.

The search warrant materials' release was sought by Randol Schoenberg, a Los Angeles-based lawyer, who contended that transparency was crucial given the potential influence the probe had on the election's outcome.

In a statement, Schoenberg said he saw "nothing to suggest that there would be anything other than routine correspondence between Secretary Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin."

Brian Fallon, who served as the national press secretary for Clinton's campaign, said on Twitter the search warrant "reveals Comey's intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified as we suspected at time."

In July, Comey recommended no charges be brought over Clinton's handing of classified information in the emails, although he said she and her colleagues were "extremely careless" in handling such information.

That determination followed what the search warrant materials called a "criminal investigation concerning the improper transmission and storage of classified info on unclassified email systems and servers."

In his Oct. 28 letter to Congress, Comey said emails potentially related to the investigation had been discovered in an "unrelated case."

Federal investigators obtained the warrant to examine the emails on Oct. 30. Two days before the election, Comey disclosed the emails did nothing to change his earlier recommendation. 

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