Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hammered his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Monday as a threat to the country, saying that electing her while the FBI was investigating material possibly related to her email set-up could throw the country into crisis.
“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,” he said.
Trump, a wealthy New York businessman, said electing Clinton on Nov. 8 would leave the country “in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford. Folks, we’ve got to get back to work. You can’t take it, I can’t take it, nobody can take it.”
Little is publicly known yet about the emails being investigated, other than that they were found during an unrelated probe into the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide.
FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress on Friday the agency was probing more emails that might relate to Clinton’s use of a private email server, but added “we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails.”
Trump has seized on the news to press his long-standing charge that Clinton lacks integrity, hoping he can make an improbable late comeback and win the White House.
Opinion polls have shown Clinton’s lead over Trump was narrowing slightly since early last week. It is not yet known if the email controversy will hurt her support. Millions of Americans have already cast their ballot in early voting.
The FBI spent a year investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server, instead of government systems, while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Comey concluded in July that while Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information there were no grounds for any charges.
The Clinton campaign and its supporters have furiously attacked Comey for releasing information that raised fresh questions but provided no details so close to Election Day, and before he even knew whether the material was significant or relevant. Some party leaders said the agency was concealing damaging information about the Trump campaign.
The White House steered clear on Monday of direct criticism of Comey, who was appointed by Democratic President Barack 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.
However, he added that Obama believes that regarding the FBI it is important for norms and traditions about making information public to be followed.
Clinton was campaigning in Ohio on Monday and trying to move beyond the controversy, telling supporters to keep focused on winning the election.
“There is no case here,” she said at a rally at Kent State University. Earlier, she told a restaurant patron at a cafe in Cleveland that the email affair is, “Lots of noise. Lots of distractions. Throwing stuff at me. And we’ve just got to keep people up, moving and voting.”
At the rally, she cast Trump as a threat to American national security because of his lack of experience, bad temper and thin skin, his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the fights he has picked with U.S. allies in Europe and Asia.
Comey, 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. U.S. 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.
Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings hammered this accusation on Monday, urging the FBI to release information on Trump and his advisers’ dealings with Russia.
An FBI spokeswoman said late on Sunday: “When we receive the letter it will be handled through our usual process in responding to members of Congress,” referring to Reid’s accusation.
The U.S. government has accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks targeting the Democratic Party that has led to the release of thousands of illegally obtained emails, revealing the sometimes unflattering inner workings of the party. The Kremlin has denied this. Trump has declined to implicate Russia in any wrongdoing.
The latest emails were discovered as part of a separate probe of former Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, who is Clinton’s closest aide and confidante, sources close to the FBI investigation have said. The FBI is investigating illicit text messages Weiner is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
Democrats have demanded that Comey and the FBI rapidly work to make public what they know about the new email trove. A source familiar with the matter said on Sunday that the FBI had secured a warrant to examine the emails.
The Wall Street Journal reported that federal agents are preparing to spend weeks examining about 650,000 emails contained on Weiner’s laptop for possible links to Clinton’s email use. It is not known yet whether the FBI will release any information about its findings before Nov. 8.
Earnest said the White House had no independent knowledge of why Comey had sent the letter to Congress, but the White House was neither going to defend nor criticize the move.
“The president thinks very highly of Director Comey,” Earnest told a regular briefing.