FBI inquiry into Clinton emails injects new uncertainty into final days of presidential race

A new FBI inquiry into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton emails injects new uncertainty into the final days of the U.S. presidential race.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES (JULY 28, 2016) (RESTRICTED POOL) – Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s bid to become the next U.S. president suffered a setback on Friday (October 28) after the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it is examining newly discovered emails on Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin’s computer.

With less than two weeks to go before voters head to the polls on November 8th, the timing of the announcement had many Democrats concerned even as it seemed to reinvigorate rival Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump praised the decision, saying it raises serious questions about whether Clinton can be trusted with the presidency.

“We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important national election of our lifetimes. It’s imperative that the bureau explain this issue and question, whatever it is, without any delay, Clinton said during a campaign stop in Des Moines just hours after the news broke.

Clinton and other Democrats including many members of the the Congressional Black Caucus called on FBI Director James Comey to provide a fuller explanation of investigative steps he is taking related to Clinton’s use of a private email server. Sources close to the investigation said the latest emails were discovered as part of a separate probe into Anthony Weiner, Abedin’s estranged husband. Weiner, a former Democratic U.S. congressman from New York, is the target of an FBIi nvestigation into illicit text messages he is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

The bureau disclosed nothing about the Abedin emails, including whether any of the messages were sent by or to Clinton

Clinton and her campaign are downplaying the new review and speculation about a voter backlash this late in the campaign

Many Americans have already made up their minds about the earlier probe into her emails, Clinton said.

Regarding the newly discovered emails, Clinton said, “I’m confident whatever they are, will not change the conclusion reached in July.”

The FBI closed its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email system while serving as secretary of state over the summer. Until Friday, her campaign seemed to have weathered the initial FBI email probe.

“When you are knocked down, what matters is whether you get up again. I have been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life and I am not stopping now. We are just getting warmed up,” Clinton told members of the LGBTQ community in Miami — just one of several stops she was making in the battleground state.

Clinton and Trump are in a tight race for the state which played a key role in the close race between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000. Many analysts believe Florida is essential for Trump to win in order to have any chance of being elected.

The RealClearPolitics website, which tracks most major polls, shows Clinton leading Trump by an average of 4 percentage points on Sunday. Most of the polls examined were conducted before or just as the FBI decision was announced.

Clinton has had a single digit lead in most national polls throughout October, a month that saw Trump’s campaign hit with two massive setbacks. Trump spent the first few days of October responding to speculation that he may have been able to avoid paying personal income taxes for nearly two decades after The New York Times released portions of his 1995 tax returns. Nearly a week later, a 2005 recording came to light in which Trump boasted in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with an unidentified married woman and groping women, saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

Either of the two bombshells would have been enough to effectively end most candidate’s White House hopes but the combination only seemed to hobble Trump slightly, giving Clinton a slight lead.

One theory about why Clinton’s campaign hasn’t expanded its lead to double-digits despite two massive setbacks for Trump is ability to control the dialog about the campaign. In the wake of the sex and tax revelations, Trump managed to surprise many by refusing to commit to accepting the election results.

His suggestions that the election is “rigged” in Clinton’s favor dominated most headlines with even U.S. President Barack Obama weighing in.

“The Donald’s already whining that the vote’s going to be rigged before the game’s even over,” Obama said.

Clinton and her supporters have struggled to redirect the focus back to Trump’s taxes and nearly a dozen women who have accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.

In 2008, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s White House bid was seriously hurt after an audio recording was made public in which he said 47 percent of the public did not pay taxes and would support his rival U.S. President Barack Obama regardless of what he said. In 1992, U.S. President George H. Bush lost to Bill Clinton after he could not make good on his campaign pledge to not raise taxes.

Clinton enjoyed a small bounce in her approval ratings after delivering strong performances in all three presidential debates.

Clinton, 69, kept her Republican rival on the defensive most of the debates with accusations he is sexist, racist and doesn’t pay federal income tax.

“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”

She also appeared to irritate Trump by questioning his temperament.

“A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned,” Clinton said.

“That line’s getting a little bit old,” Trump replied.

Another dig focused on the growing list of prominent Republicans and Independents who have said they are supporting Clinton.

Among them are: former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage, Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican donor Meg Whitman.

George H.W. Bush has not denied or confirmed reports he told Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend that will vote for Clinton. The elder Bush and Bill Clinton have become good friends in recent years and his son Jeb’s own White House hopes were dashed by a steady stream of insults suggesting from Trump suggesting he is “low energy.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush, the wife of former president George W. Bush and her daughter Barbara attended a fundraiser for Clinton in Paris, CNN reported. Instagram photos showed the younger Bush with Abedin and actress Dakota Fanning. The photo also contained the hashtag #werewithher — a reference to one of Clinton’s campaign themes – “I’m with her.”

Clinton’s commanding performance in the first debate came at a critical time — just days after one of the worst weeks for her campaign. It began with Clinton’s critical remarks about Trump supporters in early September.

“You can put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables’, right? The racists, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” Clinton said at a fundraiser in New York.

The following day, she said she regretted saying “half” of her rival’s supports belonged in a “basket of deplorables” in a statement, but did not back off what she described as “prejudice and paranoia” from the Trump campaign.

That same weekend, Clinton triggered a health scare after she nearly collapsed at an event in New York marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Clinton’s campaign initially said she left the event because she became she became “overheated and dehydrated” but later disclosed that she had been diagnosed with a lung infection and pneumonia days earlier.

The incident revived concerns about a tendency toward secrecy that has dogged her campaign, and underscored perennial worries about the medical fitness of candidates for one of the world’s most demanding jobs. In late 2012, Clinton suffered a blood clot in a vein between her brain and skull behind her right ear that stemmed from a concussion she suffered in mid-December. For weeks afterward, Clinton was forced to wear special glasses to counteract double vision.

Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, have suggested for weeks that Clinton lacks the energy and the “stamina” needed to be president.

“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a Congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton said in response.

Republicans have repeatedly hammered Clinton over the issue, helping to drive opinion poll results showing that many U.S. voters doubt her trustworthiness. The discovery that Clinton used a personal computer server grew out of a Republican-led inquiry into the U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans in 2013, famously grilled Clinton for 11 hours about the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others.

“The fact is we had four dead Americans, whether it was because of a protest or because there was some guys who went out for a walk one night and decided they wanted to go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does this make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” Clinton told members of a House of Representatives committee investigating Benghazi.

Sexual scandals have also been a sensitive issue for Clinton. Trump has accused Clinton of enabling her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s past extramarital affairs and even threatening several women to remain quiet about allegations of sexual harassment.

Ahead of the first debate, he tweeted that he planned to invite Gennifer Flowers to attend. Flowers, a cabaret singer, claimed to a years-long affair with Bill Clinton when he was the governor of Arkansas. Clinton’s best known sexual scandal was his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky which prompted the Republican-led House of Representatives in 1998 to vote to impeach him. The Senate in 1999 voted to acquit the president.

Trump convened a surprise meeting of women who have previously accused former Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, just hours before the second presidential debate.

None of the accusations was new. Bill Clinton was never charged in any of the cases, and he settled a sexual harassment suit with one of the women, Paula Jones, for $850,000 with no apology or admission of guilt.

Clinton’s decision to stand by her husband even as the tawdry details of her husband’s affair were splashed across television screens and newspapers worldwide in the late 1990s, earned her admiration in some quarters, and made her a subject of fascination for many. They also earned Clinton her highest approval rating ever — 67 percent according a 1999 poll.

Clinton’s path to political office began on the sidelines, as the wife to then Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton who would go onto serve two terms in the White House. Both Yale Law School graduates, the Clintons were a departure from more traditional political couples. During his 1992 campaign, Clinton promised voters that they would get “two for one,” by voting him into office but quickly dropped that claim when it proved unpopular.

Emerging from the shadow of her husband in 2000, First Lady Clinton went on to become candidate Clinton, carving out a career as a politician representing New York in the U.S. Senate for eight years. It was the first for a former First Lady, and the start of many firsts in her career.

By the summer of 2008, Clinton had lost her party’s nomination to Obama, a humiliating defeat played out on the national stage. The rejection by her fellow Democrats would mark one of Clinton’s darkest hours. By June, she was ready to consider former rival Obama’s offer to appoint her Secretary of State.

Clinton last week referenced her own failures as she accused Trump of undermining the election by refusing to commit to accepting the results.

“We have always had peaceful transitions, no matter who won or who lost,” Clinton said. “I’ve lost two elections -you don’t feel very good the next day…but we know in our country the difference between leadership and dictatorship.

The international stage would prove far more welcoming to Clinton, who appeared to find her stride, crisscrossing the globe for talks with world leaders and demonstrating a command of foreign affairs. In her new capacity as the U.S.’s top diplomat, Clinton saw her approval ratings soar, reaching 66 percent in 2010.

The burst of approval a few short years after the public’s rejection of her presidential ambitions, the triumphs followed by potentially career ending lows, have been a recurring theme throughout her more than two decades in public life.

Trump has downplayed Clinton’s professional achievements, even suggesting in April that Clinton was capitalizing on her gender and “playing the woman’s card.”

Clinton fired back, “If fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the ‘woman card,’ then deal me in.”

Clinton has struggled to excite younger voters, who are often referred to as millennials, despite securing the endorsement of her former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders. One thing that could help Clinton is the enthusiastic support of her former rival and later boss, Obama.

“There has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill (Clinton), nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama told Democrats at their party’s convention in Philadelphia. The president’s approval rating has risen in recent weeks, a fact that could benefit Clinton, one of the most high profile members of his administration.

Obama and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden have stepped up their support for Clinton since the convention, joining her on the campaign trail frequently and stressing their local ties in battleground states like Pennsylvania. First Lady Michelle Obama has also worked to extend Clinton’s support among suburban female voters, a demographic that Trump has not polled well with.

U.S. voters head to the polls on November 8th. While Clinton remains the frontrunner, the new FBI investigation has some Democrats worried a prolonged investigation could cast a shadow over a Clinton transition if she wins the White House.