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Clinton responds to FBI email investigation: Release all the facts

Special Report: Clinton responds
Special Report: Hillary Clinton responds to renewed FBI probe 08:31

Hillary Clinton challenged the FBI to release full details regarding the discovery of new material related to the federal investigation of her private email server -- a revelation that sent ripples through the presidential race just 11 days before Election Day. 

FBI director James Comey dropped an “October surprise” on her campaign Friday when he sent a letter to the Republican leadership in Congress announcing that new emails had been discovered that may pertain to what had been a dormant probe. 

Speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, Clinton said she is “confident” the results of the renewed investigation will “not change the conclusion reached in July.”

New Clinton-related emails could cause stumble on campaign trail 01:41

Clinton said it is “imperative” for the FBI to provide more information “without delay. 

“We don’t know the facts, which is why we are calling on the FBI to release all the information that it has,” Clinton said. “Even (FBI) Director (James) Comey noted that this new information might not be significant, so let’s get it out.” 

CBS News has learned that the emails had been discovered during an FBI investigation into Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexting with a 15-year-old girl. Weiner is currently estranged from his wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The emails were on a laptop that had been shared by the couple, CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reports. 

Clinton said her campaign has heard the “rumors” about a connection between Abedin and Weiner and the new emails, but she said “we don’t know what to believe.” 

“Right now, your guess is as good as mine, and I don’t think that’s good enough.”

Clinton’s campaign said it had no advance knowledge of Comey’s letter, and the campaign staff found out about it only after the news had broken Friday afternoon, while Clinton was on a two-hour,15-minute flight traveling with staff and with reporters to Cedar Rapids, all of whom had little or no Wi-Fi access for most of the duration of the flight

When Clinton landed, reporters shouted questions to Clinton as she walked from the plane in Cedar Rapids to the car that took her to her rally. She just smiled and waved, ignoring the questions.

Comey stressed in his letter that the FBI could not yet assess “whether or not this material may be significant,” or how long it might take to run down the new investigative leads.

“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote. “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”

New Clinton emails found by FBI tied to Anthony Weiner sexting investigation 06:49

It was unclear what the emails contained, who sent them, or what connection they might have to the yearlong investigation that resulted in the FBI declining to recommend criminal charges in July. The FBI probe focused on whether Clinton sent or received classified information using a server in the basement of her New York home, which was not authorized to handle such messages. Abedin was interviewed by the FBI as part of its investigation.

Comey said in July that his agents didn’t find evidence to support a criminal prosecution or direct evidence that Clinton’s private server was hacked.

Matthew Miller, a former chief spokesman for the Justice Department, was dismayed by the timing of Comey’s letter.

“Longstanding DOJ and FBI practice is you don’t say anything publicly close to an election that can possibly influence that election,” Miller said.

Comey, who has talked often about the FBI’s need to be accountable to the public, promised extraordinary transparency about the investigation and during intervening months has authorized the release of investigative files from the case, which are normally kept confidential.

That stance also left Comey, a career federal prosecutor who has served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, open to criticism from leaders in both parties that he was trying to influence the outcome of the presidential race.

Timing of renewed Clinton FBI probe raises questions 01:54

Clinton campaign supporters were already suggesting the FBI director was putting a thumb on the scale. Had he waited until after Nov. 8 to announce the discovery of the new emails, however, Comey would surely have faced criticism for sitting on major news until after the new president had been selected.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the department learned about the FBI letter from news reports and did not get any notification from the FBI. Toner pledged the department would “cooperate to the full extent that we can.”

Speaking at a Clinton rally in Florida, President Barack Obama also steered clear of the issue. White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined comment beyond reiterating Obama’s continuing support for Clinton.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said Comey’s letter was particularly troubling because it left so many questions unanswered.

“Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development,” said Feinstein, D-Calif. “The FBI has a history of extreme caution near Election Day so as not to influence the results. Today’s break from that tradition is appalling.” 

Republicans immediately pounced on the news, hoping to shake up a presidential race where most polls appear to show Republican nominee Donald Trump lagging well behind Clinton.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Clinton has “nobody but herself to blame.”

“She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information,” Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. “This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”

Speaking to cheering supporters at a rally in New Hampshire, Trump used Comey’s new letter to attack Clinton.

“We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office,” said Trump, who has pledged to “lock up” his political rival if elected. “Perhaps finally justice will be done.” 

In a tweet, Mike Pence “commended” Comey for his action.

Prior to seeking public office as a Republican, Trump was a supporter of Clinton’s past campaigns for president and senator. Records show the New York billionaire also contributed at least $4,300 to former Rep. Weiner’s Democratic campaigns.

CBS News’ Hannah Fraser-Chanpong contributed to this report

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