Huma Abedin (left), the Clinton aide at the centre of new FBI investigations
With only eight days to go, the end of the US presidential campaign is finally in sight, and after months of primaries, conventions and debates, the conventional wisdom of political commentators and pundits has been that a Hillary Clinton victory is inevitable. Despite pulling off a huge upset by winning the Republican nomination, few expect Donald Trump to go all the way to the White House; after all, this is a man who has broken every single rule in the campaign playbook, dishing out insults and hateful vitriol whilst pushing back against allegations of historic sexual assault. Surely Mrs Clinton cannot lose to such a flawed candidate?
As Americans prepare for the final week of campaigning, Secretary Clinton continues to hold the lead in the polls over her Republican rival, but the events of recent days threaten to derail her candidacy and potentially cost her the White House. Throughout this campaign, she has been dogged by an ongoing scandal over her use of a private email system during her time as Secretary of State, and although an FBI investigation concluded in July that she did not break the law, it was announced on Saturday by FBI Director James Comey that investigations will be reopened following the discovery of new material that could be relevant.
The ‘new material’ in question concerns thousands of emails found on the personal computer of former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin. Mr Weiner is currently under investigation over allegations that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a fifteen-year-old girl, and the FBI claims that the emails found on his device may be ‘pertinent’ to the Clinton case. Although little detail has been revealed so far, the re-emergence of this scandal so close to polling day will cause a major headache for a Clinton campaign that had been so confident of victory.
Despite the lack of detail and clarity, Clinton’s supporters have responded by going on the offensive, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid attacking Director Comey for his ‘partisan actions’ and accusing the FBI chief of breaking the law. Despite being appointed to this position by Barack Obama, Comey is a Republican who served in the Justice Department under George W Bush, and Reid is not the only Democrat to accuse him of political motivations. Additionally, it has been revealed that Comey was advised by the Justice Department not to publicise the reopening of the Clinton case for fear that doing so could politicise the FBI and unduly influence the outcome of the election.
Unsurprisingly, no one has been happier at these revelations than Donald Trump, who praised Comey’s decision to inform Congress of the investigations and accused the Justice Department of seeking to ‘protect the criminal activity of Hillary Clinton.’ With polls suggesting that Trump is now ahead in the crucial battleground state of Florida, a Clinton collapse could provide him with enough momentum to upset the odds once again and pull a surprise election victory out of the bag. Such an outcome remains unlikely, but with every day that passes voters are reminded of the significant skeletons that still remain within the Clinton closet.
For years, Huma Abedin has been Hillary Clinton’s closest advisor, confidante and friend, yet her involvement in this scandal could put that relationship to the test. Her husband’s sordid personal life has been well-documented since he was forced to resign from Congress in 2011, and reports that ‘tens of thousands’ of Abedin’s emails were discovered on Weiner’s computer will only dredge up these negative memories whilst reinforcing the shadiness and impropriety that hang like clouds over the Clinton campaign.
The FBI were right to make these details public – anything else would have had the stench of an establishment cover-up – and the job of Director Comey must now be to determine whether the Weiner emails contained classified information or any other content that could have serious legal and ethical implications for Secretary Clinton. With so little time until Election Day, Americans have once again been reminded of the inadequate choice that they face, and whoever emerges triumphant will have the difficult task of assuring the public that they can be trusted.