Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Bitter to the wire

Though the FBI’s decision to reopen its investigation into the Hillary Clinton private email server affair has put her on the defensive, she remains ahead of her Republican rival, reports Khaled Dawoud

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a five percentage point lead over Republican rival Donald Trump according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released Monday, down only slightly since the FBI said last week it was reviewing new emails in its investigation of the former US secretary of state.

Some 44 per cent of likely voters said they would support Clinton, while 39 per cent said they would support Trump, according to the 26-30 October survey. Clinton had held a six-point advantage over Trump in the five-day tracking poll a week ago.

Other polls have shown Clinton’s lead slipping more sharply. Real Clear Politics, which averages the results of most major polls, showed that Clinton’s lead declined from 4.6 points on Friday to 2.5 points on Monday.

Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey told Congress in a letter made public on Friday, 28 October, that his agency was looking into new emails that may be connected to Clinton, who had been probed by the FBI over her use of a private server and how she handled classified information while America’s top diplomat during the first administration of US President Barack Obama.

The FBI has revealed very little to the public about the new emails under investigation, except that they were uncovered during an unrelated investigation into the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide.

In July, Comey concluded that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” with their handling of classified information, but that there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges. On Friday, Comey told Congress, “We don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails.”

The announcement by Comey in the final hours ahead of election day on Tuesday, 8 November, has raised many eyebrows in Washington, and the wrath of the Clinton campaign. However, it was music to the ears of Trump who has repeatedly pressed Clinton on the case of her abuse of private email for official purposes, saying that she should be in jail, instead of running for the White House.

He delivered the same message during his last tour of several key swinging states this week that will likely determine the outcome of elections. Trump called Clinton “a threat to the country” on Monday, saying that if she is elected a probe into her emails could shadow her entire term in office.

“The investigation will last for years. The trial will probably start,” Trump told a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Nothing will get done. I can tell you, your jobs will continue to leave Michigan. Nothing’s going to get done.”

Clinton responded by saying that she was confident that the FBI would not find anything problematic in her emails and would reach the same conclusion they did earlier this year.

“It wasn’t even a close call,” she said at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, of the FBI investigation.

To counter Trump’s accusations, she continued to level attacks against his ability to control nuclear weapons. “I am running against someone who says he doesn’t understand why we can’t use nuclear weapons,” she said in Cincinnati. “He wants more countries to have nuclear weapons.”

“I wonder if he even knows that a single nuclear warhead can kill millions of people,” she added.

But just a few days ahead of the election  — a time when candidates typically feel that the hard work of the campaign is behind them — both Clinton and Trump have ratcheted up their attacks on the other’s character and fitness for office.

Clinton, who had been riding high in opinion polls in recent weeks as Trump was hit by the fallout of the release of a 2005 video in which he bragged in vulgar terms about groping women, now finds herself on the defensive.

Trump, who has repeatedly referred to Clinton as “corrupt Hillary,” said the email probe shows what a poor role model she is, seemingly trying to turn the tables on Clinton, who has assailed his character and fitness to become president.

“I want to tell you, she is a terrible example for my son and the children of this country,” he said in Warren, Michigan, mentioning his youngest son, Barron. “Hillary is the one who broke the law over and over and over again.”

Until the Friday revelation, Clinton had been coasting with a comfortable lead over Trump. It is not yet known if the email controversy will hurt her support. Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots in early voting.

Despite the controversy about her email, Clinton continues to hold a large advantage in the Electoral College, the process that selects a president by awarding votes through individual state elections. Clinton holds leads in several key swing states, including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where Trump must erode a large lead to be victorious.

Meanwhile, FBI director Comey, who was roundly criticised by Republicans for his decision not to recommend charges against Clinton at the end of the FBI probe in July, has now drawn the ire of senior Democrats. US Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, accused him of “a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.”

He said, without providing evidence, that the FBI was keeping “explosive information” under wraps about ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook called reports that the FBI would not discuss whether the Russian government was behind the hacking of Democratic email accounts because it was too close to the election “a blatant double standard”.

In an August letter, Reid asked Comey to investigate whether Trump allies have worked with the Kremlin to influence the election, citing reports that a foreign policy adviser had met with Putin allies on a July trip to Moscow, and that longtime Republican operative Roger Stone had been in touch with Wikileaks.

The White House steered clear Monday of direct criticism of Comey, who was appointed by Obama in 2013. Obama views the FBI head as a man of integrity and does not believe he is secretly trying to influence the outcome of the election, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. (see p.11)

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