A federal investigation into Anthony Weiner’s sexting has breathed new life into an FBI inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and concerns that she improperly handled of classified information.
That is, on its face, a ridiculous sentence. It is also a true one. As the Washington Post reported on Friday, investigators seized a computer while looking into whether Weiner had committed a crime by sexting a teenage girl.
That computer contained emails that may be relevant to the separate FBI investigation into whether Clinton illegally handled classified information while secretary of state, according to the Washington Post and NBC News. (The FBI said in July that it didn’t plan to file criminal charges against Clinton over her private server, but it never closed the case.)
Let’s pause here, because you may be wondering at this point: Just how on earth could the private sexts of the disgraced former New York Congress member be tied the former secretary of state? Sure, Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. But how would his junk possibly tie into whether Clinton broke the law through her private email server?
In his letter to Congress, FBI Director James Comey doesn’t provide an answer. Instead, he simply says authorities had come across new emails from another inquiry that “appear to be pertinent to the investigation” about Clinton.
Comey’s investigation is ongoing, and he’s not going to reveal how Weiner’s emails do or don’t relate to the FBI’s Clinton investigation. But there really is a way in which you can imagine Weiner’s emails are directly relevant for the investigation.
How could Weiner’s emails be relevant for the Clinton email investigation?
To understand why that’s the case, you need to understand why Clinton was under FBI investigation in the first place.
On that front, the FBI has made its intentions clear. In July, Comey said in a statement that the FBI’s investigation was into whether Clinton had broken one of two laws.
The first was whether Clinton had committed a felony-level offense of “either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way” mishandling classified information by using a private server. The second is if she broke a second, misdemeanor-level offense making it illegal to “knowingly remove” classified information from secured servers.
This second part may be particularly important. The FBI said that Clinton exchanged more than 100 emails marked as classified and more than 2,000 additional emails retroactively marked classified. Clinton has maintained that she didn’t exchange emails marked classified emails at the time they were received. In July, the FBI concluded that although Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of email, she had not, in fact, broken the law.
This is where Weiner’s computer came in. Though it belonged to Weiner, the laptop also contained “some” emails exchanged between Abedin and Clinton.
Reports NBC’s Pete Williams:
What they discovered in looking at Anthony Weiner’s laptop, one of the laptops that he used to communicate with this young girl, they discovered that Huma Abedin also used that laptop.
And on that laptop were some emails between Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton. So now they’ve got to look at those emails and decide whether there’s classified information in them and if so whether that changes the conclusion about whether a crime was committed here in using a private email server to transmit classified information.
You could imagine all sorts of emails fitting that description that would be directly relevant to the investigation. One thing the FBI could be looking for is whether Clinton and Abedin talked about her decision to set up a private server. Or maybe they’re looking for more on what Clinton thought about the information she was exchanging.
I should be very, very clear here: We have absolutely zero evidence that anything like this kind of email was exchanged. But for those confused by Weiner’s sudden injection into a seemingly unrelated story, it’s not inconceivable that it led federal investigators to new information that hurts Clinton’s story in the FBI investigation. And that could prove bad news for Clinton even if she beats Donald Trump on November 8.