On July 5, 2016, James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, delivered the following statement:
“In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”
With these words, Comey had appeared to end discourse about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server for classified information. This freed Clinton from months of rehashing the incident and allowed for a smooth Democratic National Convention later that month. Despite Clinton’s July acquittal, on October 28, Director Comey delivered the “October surprise” that the Clinton campaign dreaded when he penned a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s email server. Comey found new emails on the phone of Anthony Weiner that he thought may have been connected to the Clinton investigation. The next week was difficult for the Clinton campaign as the element of unknown surrounding the investigation hurt her polling numbers. According to fivethirtyeight, Clinton’s odds of winning before October 28 were 80.8%. A week later, however, her odds had dipped to a mere 64.6%. Democrats running for Senate also felt the effect of Comey’s letter as the Democrat’s probability to control the Senate dropped from 75.8% on October 28 to the current odds of 46.2%. With Election Day nearly upon us, Hillary Clinton’s campaign received a much needed spark when FBI Director James Comey announced on Sunday that his July recommendation not to press charges against Secretary Clinton for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State would remain.
While Clinton’s odds have recovered to a 69% likelihood of winning since heading into Tuesday, Comey’s letter certainly hurt Secretary Clinton and Senate Democrats in the crucial last stretch of the campaign season. If the Democrats fail to win at least 50 seats for Clinton’s hypothetical first two years as President, she will likely face major obstacles in governing. Perhaps most threatening could be the continuation of blocking any liberal Supreme Court nominee she wishes to appoint. Comey’s Sunday decision certainly helped stop the bleeding for Secretary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, but may have done extreme long term damage to her hypothetical Presidency if she must govern with both a Republican controlled Senate and House of Representatives.