What the FBI Director’s Letter About the Clinton Emails Really Says

by Ian Millhiser –

It’s a good idea to read the letter before you report on it.


As of this writing, all three cable news networks are in a frenzy. FBI Director James Comey just sent a letter to Republican congressional committee chairs announcing that he’s taking a new look into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Another investigation! And right before the election! She could be indicted!

Well, probably not. Indeed, almost definitely not. Here’s what the letter actually says:

The relevant paragraph in this brief letter is the middle one, where Comey writes that the FBI “has learned of the existence” of emails that it previously did not review. In response to this new information, the FBI will now “allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information.”

The FBI, in other words, is not reexamining its previous findings. It is not questioning its previous legal conclusion that “no reasonable prosecutor” could determine that charges are warranted. Based on the letter, it appears that the FBI will simply provide the same scrutiny to these newly uncovered emails as it previously applied to the emails it already reviewed when it determined that criminal charges are not warranted.

Though the initial narrative to emerge from this new letter — a narrative pushed by Republican House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz — is that the FBI has “reopened” the case against Clinton, several reporters did acknowledge on Twitter that this narrative is not true.

NOTE: House Oversight Chair has called this a “re-opening” of the investigation into Clinton. However, FBI Director used no such language.

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress