On Tuesday, a federal judge unsealed the search warrant and related documents used by the FBI to justify reactivating its investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server, less than two weeks before the presidential election. The Oct. 30 warrant request came two days after FBI Director James Comey took the unusual and controversial step of informing Congress and the public that agents had found emails that "appear to be pertinent" to the closed Clinton investigation. Two days before the election, Comey said the FBI had found nothing new and incriminating.
The unsealed affidavit, sworn out by an FBI official whose name was redacted, seems to argue that because the bureau's earlier investigation had uncovered classified information in emails to Clinton and aide Huma Abedin, and a seized laptop owned by Abedin's estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, contained emails to Abedin from the time period she was in regular contact with Clinton, "there is probable cause to believe the [laptop] contains correspondence" with classified information. "The Subject Laptop was never authorized for the storage or transmission of classified or national defense information," the affidavit added.
The new documents "reinforce the impression that when the bureau revealed less than two weeks before the election that agents were again investigating Clinton, they had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing," The Washington Post says. Several outside lawyers said the FBI likely met the low bar of "probable cause" in its warrant request, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Fox was within bounds to sign off on the search. But the lawyer who requested the documents, E. Randol Schoenberg, said after reading them Tuesday he was "appalled" at the lack of any evidence a crime might have been committed. "There's nothing other than 'we'd like to look at it,' and that's not the standard for probable cause," he told Courthouse News Service.
Given the stakes — the election, plausibly — the Clinton camp was furious. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter that the documents show that "Comey's intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified as we suspected at time," adding that it's "salt in the wound to see FBI rationale was this flimsy." Clinton lawyer David Kendall criticized the "extraordinary impropriety" of Comey's vague Oct. 28 letter, "which produced devastating but predictable damage politically and which was both legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary." We may have to wait for Comey's autobiography to hear his side.