Meanwhile, Ethics Lawyer Questions Whether FBI Director Violated Hatch Act


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hillary Clinton entered the final full week of the presidential race Monday on the defensive once again over her use of a private email system.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the email scandal has resurfaced at a time when Clinton wanted to be making her closing argument with voters. The FBI said it was unlikely that the review of the thousands of emails would be complete before election day.

The campaign has launched a vigorous, coordinated effort to press the FBI to release more details about the new email inquiry, hoping more information distances Clinton from the discoveries.

They’re also wielding the controversial decision to disclose the developments in the election’s final days as a way to shake off Democratic complacency and give supporters new motivation to vote.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the eight days left before the election likely are not enough to sift through the thousands of emails tied to Clinton. But they allow for plenty of time to potentially change the outcome of the vote.

Clinton’s lead in the polls has been falling over the last week. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll has Trump and Clinton just a point apart nationally, among likely voters.

But a new CBS News Battleground Tracker finds that 71 percent, the majority of voters polled in battleground states after this latest development, have already made up their minds about the election or have already voted.

The investigation appears to center on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and estranged husband of Clinton confidante Huma Abedin, who is at the center of several sexting scandals which led to a federal investigation.

It’s unclear whether the material on the device was from Clinton, nor is it known if the emails in question are new or duplicates of the thousands the former secretary of state and her aides have already turned over.

Law enforcement sources said investigators secured a search warrant Sunday to begin examining the emails.

“I’m sure a lot of you may be asking what this new email story is about, and why in the world would the FBI would decide to jump into an election with no evidence of any wrongdoing with just days to go,” Clinton said.

Abedin has not been traveling with Clinton for three days now, since she became the target of the inquiry. It was not clear where she was on Monday afternoon.

“Now, they want to look at e-mails of one of my staffers, and by all means they should look at them,” Clinton said. “I am sure they’ll reach the same conclusion they did when they looked my e-mail for the last year. There is no case here.”

Abedin said she only learned Friday that her emails might be on Weiner’s laptop. On Monday night, her attorney said, “while the FBI has not contacted us about this, Ms. Abedin will continue to be… forthcoming and cooperative.”

Meanwhile, even at the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village on Monday, the email scandal continued to haunt Clinton.

A group dressed as 'Hillary Clinton's emails' walk along Sixth Avenue during the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade, October 31, 2016 in New York City. Thousands of people are expected to attend as the parade travels up Sixth Avenue through the West Village. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A group dressed as ‘Hillary Clinton’s emails’ walk along Sixth Avenue during the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade, October 31, 2016 in New York City. Thousands of people are expected to attend as the parade travels up Sixth Avenue through the West Village. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“So I’m one of the 33,000 missing emails and finally I surfaced tonight on Halloween,” said one paradegoer in costume.

The scandal also delighted a Donald Trump puppet at the parade, and the real-life version campaigning in Michigan on Monday.

“How can Hillary manage this country when she can’t even manage her email?” Trump said.

For Trump’s team, the probe is new ammunition to rally their base.

“This is explosive and it’s reminding people what their hesitations about Hillary Clinton were in the first place,” said Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.

At a rally Sunday in Las Vegas, Trump said Clinton “has nobody but herself to blame for her mounting legal problems.”

Trump on Monday reminded voters in Michigan that he was the one who raised questions about Abedin and Weiner, long before the weekend’s bombshell news the FBI will be investigating new emails found on the couple’s computer.

“Thank you Huma, Thank you Huma, good job Huma,” Trump said at a rally on Monday. “Thank you Anthony Weiner.”

“Like, how could she be allowed to live with this guy? How could she have access to important — and I was badly criticized, and now they are saying, ‘Ah, Trump has good judgment,’” Trump added.

FBI Director James Comey acknowledges that what they’ve found may not be significant, but it has triggered a firestorm, putting Clinton and her team on the defense.

“Very unprecedented,” Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, said. “They’re not supposed to talk about ongoing investigation. They’re also not supposed to put it right before en election.”

Clinton hit the campaign trail this weekend with gusto and vowed that she would not be “knocked off course” in the election’s final days, calling it “a lot of noise and distraction.”

“I’m not stopping now, we’re just getting warmed up,” Clinton told a crowd in Florida Sunday.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Comey accusing him of violating the law, by using his “official authority to influence an election.”

Sources say it is unlikely that investigators will be able to review the emails before Election Day.

The CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows Clinton with leads in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado. Trump is up in Arizona.

It remains to be seen as to whether the new email twist will change the numbers.

“We used to have October surprises. It was a single day in November,” said CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson. “Now, the entire month is a surprise.”

Meanwhile, questions have mounted as to whether Comey violated any laws by releasing the letter.

“That letter should never have been written,” said Richard Painter, a former top ethics lawyer in the Bush White House.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, Painter has asked a federal agency to investigate whether Comey violated the Hatch Act. It bars officials and the executive branch from trying to influence an election.

Painter said it does not matter that Comey promised to keep Congress posted.

“And that’s a promise that probably never should’ve been made, or should be qualified by obligation to comply with Hatch Act not to make communication that will be used solely for political purposes — and that’s exactly what happened here,” Painter said.

The office of the special counsel that looks into Hatch Act violations would not confirm or deny anything, but it told WCBS 880 that generally when it receives a complaint like Painter’s, it opens an investigation.

Violators do not go to jail. They are typically suspended or fired.

Comey also took heat from Clinton’s running mate for his letter to Congress.

“One, you don’t talk about an ongoing investigation, and second, you don’t release sensitive information right before an election,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia). “Clearly. these protocols were protocols that Director Comey understood.”

Many Democrats said the latest developments will not affect their vote. Clinton is clinging to a three-point lead in an average of nationwide polls.

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