WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on White House rival Hillary Clinton on Saturday over her email practices after the FBI said it was looking into the case once again.
Meanwhile, top aides to Democrat Clinton bitterly criticized the FBI chief for reviving — less than two weeks before the November 8 presidential election — the controversy over her use of private email while secretary of state.
Campaigning in the western state of Colorado, which has been leaning toward Clinton, an ebullient Trump denounced what he called the “criminal and illegal conduct of Hillary Clinton,” prompting chants from the crowd of “Lock her up!”
“This is the biggest political scandal since Watergate,” said the real estate tycoon, who has been dogged himself by scandal over alleged sexual misconduct. “Hillary has nobody to blame but herself.”
The 70-year-old Trump said he hoped “justice at last can be properly delivered” in the email case, which appeared concluded in July when FBI director James Comey recommended that no charges be filed against Clinton.
In a surprise announcement on Friday, however, Comey said FBI agents are investigating a newly discovered group of emails sent to Clinton’s private address.
‘The full story’
According to the New York Times, the newly discovered emails emerged after agents seized electronic devices used by Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.
Weiner, a Democratic former congressman who resigned in 2011 after he was exposed for sending explicit online messages, is under investigation over allegations he sent sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl.
Echoing a call made by Clinton herself on Friday, the Democratic candidate’s campaign manager Robby Mook urged the FBI director on Saturday to provide more information about the inquiry.
“He owes the public the full story or else he shouldn’t have cracked open this door in the first place,” Mook said on a conference call with reporters.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Justice Department officials had warned the FBI director that his move violated long-standing tradition not to do anything that could influence an election in its waning days.
While criticizing Comey, Mook sought at the same time to play down the impact the revived email scandal would have on Clinton’s chances of becoming America’s first woman president.
“We don’t see it as changing the landscape,” he said. “In terms of undecided or persuadable voters, what we are seeing is a growing intensity among our supporters both online and out in the field.”
Clinton has been regularly leading in the polls but an ABC/Washington Post survey out Saturday gave her just a 47 percent to 45% lead nationwide, a drastic fall from her 12-point lead in the same poll a week ago.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of multiple polls, Clinton still holds a 44.9% to 41.1% lead over Trump nationwide.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta accused Comey of releasing “selective information” in his letter to lawmakers telling them the FBI was once again looking at Clinton’s emails.
“Director Comey was the one who wrote a letter that was light on facts, heavy on innuendo, knowing full well what Republicans in Congress would do with it,” Podesta told reporters.
“He’s allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate in order to inflict maximum political damage,” he said. “And no one can separate what is true from what is not, because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts.
“There’s no evidence of wrongdoing, no charge of wrongdoing,” he said.
While Trump was campaigning in Colorado and Arizona on Saturday, Clinton was in Florida, a state seen as crucial for victory by both the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Clinton was scheduled to hold a “Get Out The Vote” rally with singer and actress Jennifer Lopez in Miami Saturday night.
Both candidates have been urging supporters to cast early ballots. Early voting has kicked off so far in 34 of the 50 US states and more than 18 million votes have already been cast.