The Surprise that Nobody Saw Coming

Michael Bakshandeh, Editor in Chief, Science, Technology, and Entertainment

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Just when we thought all the election controversy was starting to die down, Hillary Clinton found her own October surprise in this tumultuous election. On Friday, October 28th, F.B.I. director James B. Comey sent a letter to Congress that declared that new emails had been uncovered that could be connected to the Clinton email investigation. In case you’re wondering what exactly sparked this letter, here is a little background on the situation.

It appeared that the Clinton email investigation was closed this past July. The F.B.I. determined that the emails sent from Clinton’s personal account did not compromise the integrity of her position. However, the supposedly set-in-stone ruling started to change this October.

In a seemingly unrelated case, F.B.I investigators were searching for potentially inappropriate messages sent by the troubled Anthony Weiner to a minor. Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a close Clinton aid, and she therefore had access to the Clinton server. An analysis of the data on Weiner’s laptop showed an unforeseen linkage to Clinton’s email server. This revelation inevitably brought both Abedin and Clinton into the spotlight. At first, senior F.B.I investigators decided to not meddle in Weiner’s case. They also had to cross a few obstacles to even reevaluate the situation, such as obtaining a proper warrant. However, a few weeks later, it was determined that the emails possibly could be relevant to Hilary’s email controversy.

Despite heavy objections from the Justice Department, Mr. Comey decided that writing a letter to Congress was the only ethical way to disclose the information he received. The letter simply disclosed that there could be new revelations in the Clinton case and the investigation might be reopened after several weeks of investigation. It is extremely unlikely that any sort of verdict regarding the FBI’s next step will occur before voters cast their ballot next Tuesday.

Comey’s declaration has caused scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats alike. Democrats obviously dislike the letter because it places Hillary in a bad light, but they also argue that the letter is “too vague” and that Comey needs to release more information to enlighten voters**. The day the letter was released, Clinton formally made a statement that “the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts.” In addition, Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, released a statement stating that “by providing selective information,” Comey is enabling “partisans to distort and exaggerate [the confusion over the emails] to inflict maximum political damage.” Other Democrats are also coming to Clinton’s defense, stating that the FBI is still uncertain what information those emails actually contain.

Republicans, while overall thrilled by the news, are also applying political pressure to Comey to release more information. Unlike the Democrats, they hope that the new information will help their candidate, Donald Trump, recover from his own devastating October surprise. Most Republicans, however, argue that the new controversy will finally allow Republicans to take the offensive in the fight for control of Congress. According to Rob Simms, executive direction of the House Republican campaign arm, the revitalized controversy “boosts the check-and-balance argument because it is a reminder of all the things voters hate about Clinton.”

What impact will this have exactly for voters nationwide? For some voters who cast their ballots early, they can change their vote if they choose to do so. This rule applies to only a select handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In New York specifically, even though most people have not voted early because it is only possible through an absentee ballot, those who have also can change their vote. For all the other states that allow early voting, voters are not permitted to change their vote.

This issue brings forth the controversy regarding early voting. Should voters be allowed to vote before Election Day, especially when so much new information is revealed along the final stretch towards Election Day? This issue, as we can see, has always been one determined by the states, and probably will not change.

While the specific impacts of this change in the election have not been documented, it can be expected that some voters may not feel as favorably towards Clinton. It will be more than interesting to see how Clinton can recover from this unprecedented event in her quest towards the White House.

**UPDATE (11/12/16): Comey released a statement just before the end of the campaign season that, after further review, the emails under scrutiny did not warrant any further investigation. This statement was released two days before the critical election (11/6/16) that Clinton lost in an effort to remove any confusion surrounding his original statement.