WASHINGTON, U.S. - Ridden with controversy, often over-the-top comments and dramatic presidential debate exchanges - the current U.S. Presidential elections might be in its final leg, but the ...
• Podesta claims Comey should come forward and explain why he took the unprecedented step
• Clinton claimed it's pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election
• Trump has called the discovery of new Clinton emails as "bigger than Watergate"
WASHINGTON, U.S. - Ridden with controversy, often over-the-top comments and dramatic presidential debate exchanges - the current U.S. Presidential elections might be in its final leg, but the race is far from over.
While the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton and a large part of her following across the U.S. thought the string of sexual harassment accusations would prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the rival candidate, Republican Donald Trump - a new scandal blew up, right on time, merely days before the presidential elections.
This time, preying on Clinton and the two years of unyielding campaigning, often hitting bumps on the way, with most of the bumps caused by the unending private email scandal.
It was in March 2015, when the scandal was thrown open in public domain after The New York Times reported that Clinton had exclusively used her own private email server rather than a government-issued one throughout her time as Secretary of State.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) then started an investigation regarding how classified information was handled on the Clinton server, after allegations that classified and top secret information had been improperly handled. If it turned out that such information had indeed been hacked, then Clinton or her aides may be held responsible for jeopardising state secrets.
After weeks of questioning Clinton and her aides, FBI Director James Comey said that the agency would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton, adding that Clinton and her staff were extremely careless in handling classified information.
Clinton did not face legal, criminal charges and her presidential campaign moved forward, in an apparent effort to erase the hurdle, that at one point had the potential to wipe out all efforts and end her campaign.
Comey had then pointed out that neither the White House nor the Justice Department were aware of what he was about to say.
He had said, “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
The U.S. State Department was also set to restart internal investigations of Clinton’s handling of classified information.
The review of 30,000 emails had been paused in April to allow the FBI to proceed “so as not to interfere with their investigation” that began in March.
About 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails were then leaked by WikiLeaks, revealing an anti-Bernie Sanders bias in operations of Democratic National Committee boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Some of the emails had even suggested that the group tried to undermine Sander’s insurgent campaign. The missing mails, however, became a bone of contention.
Trump touted the missing emails as evidence of malfeasance while Clinton's campaign maintained that they handed over all work-related State Department emails to the FBI as part of a probe into Clinton's use of the private server.
FBI experts believed that Russia was behind the hack and this led to Trump’s infamous challenge to Russian hackers, where he claimed, “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing.”
His suggestion of espionage did not go down well with authorities, leading him to backtrack on his foot-in-mouth moment, brushing off the controversy claiming he was only being sarcastic.
Russia, however, denounced Trump’s invitation and refuted claims that their country’s hackers were behind the leak of 20,000 emails from Clinton’s private server.
Livid Podesta lashes out at FBI’s timing
Now, after months, the FBI said on Friday that it is investigating more emails as part of a probe into Clinton's use of a private email system.
An obviously furious John Podesta, Clinton Campaign chairman, speaking to CNN said that he believes Comey’s handing of the matter is “inappropriate.”
He said the FBI should have investigated enough to know exactly what it was dealing with before announcing the investigation.
Adding, “He might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of a presidential campaign, so close to the voting. This is something that has been tossed into the middle of the campaign. We would have preferred that that not happen, but now that it has happened, we would prefer that Mr. Comey come forward and explain why he took that unprecedented step.”
Podesta had even addressed a press conference and said, “The extraordinary letter that was long on innuendo and short on facts that Director Comey sent yesterday to eight Republican committee chairs. 24 hours after that letter was sent, we have no real explanation of why Director Comey decided to send that letter to congressional leaders.”
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) too released a statement and accused Comey of breaking a long-standing department tradition that is meant to prevent any influence on the electoral process.
DNC said in its statement, “The letter did not offer enough detail that would allow Americans a full understanding of the development and whether or not it is even significant, which has led to speculation on the part of the media and irresponsible claims by Republican leaders. The FBI must move quickly to release additional clarifying information.”
Hillary Clinton meanwhile assailed Comey over the timing of relaunching the probe, saying that the move just ahead of the presidential polls was "unprecedented" and "deeply troubling".
Speaking in Florida, Clinton said, “It is pretty strange. It's pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, in fact, it's not just strange. It's unprecedented. And it is deeply troubling because voters deserve get to full and complete facts.”
She urged Comey "to explain everything right away, put it all out on the table.”
She also attacked Trump and said, “He is doing his best to confuse, mislead, and discourage the American people. I think it's time for Donald Trump to stop fear mongering, to stop disgracing himself, to stop attacking our democracy. We can't let him get away with this, can we?"
Trump, soon after the FBI’s announcement, addressed a rally in Colorado, accusing the Justice Department of trying to protect Clinton.
He alleged, “You're supposed to give your emails. The process and the legal process has been taking a long time. It's very sad that it's taken so long. And now it's reported today this morning that the Department of Justice was fighting the FBI and that's because the Department of Justice is trying so hard to protect Hillary.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence meanwhile commended FBI Director Jim Comey for his letter to Congress about the bureau’s new review of emails.
The Indiana governor said, “What you see here is an example of real leadership. We commend the director of the FBI and the FBI for following through on their work before the Congress. I don’t think it alters the campaign at all. What we already know here is troubling to the American people, and it’s convincing millions of Americans that Hillary Clinton is just a risky choice in this election.”
While Clinton’s campaign is said to be working hard to avoid any voter backlash, declaring, “We don't see it changing the landscape" for undecided voters - Trump called the new development part of "the biggest political scandal since Watergate.”
It now remains to be seen if the scandal will make or break Hillary Clinton’s campaign.