Disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison, after pleading guilty in a “sexting” case involving a minor. We wrote last fall about the tabloid story that spurred an FBI investigation — and also caused a major headache for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

In the course of investigating Weiner, the FBI discovered on his laptop emails from Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife and a top Clinton aide. The agency deemed the emails relevant to a separate (previously closed) investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, and notified Congress that it was reopening the Clinton probe.

Clinton has said she believes the reopening of her case contributed to her defeat, and many of her supporters agree. Although it is hard to quantify the effect on the election, it is clear that a report in the Daily Mail led to Weiner's guilty plea and prison sentence.

Former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was sentenced Sept. 25 to 21 months in jail for transferring obscene material to a minor. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Our original post from Oct. 28, has been updated below:

This is the sentence, published in September 2016 by the Daily Mail's U.S. website, that led to the return of Hillary Clinton's FBI woes: “Anthony Weiner carried on a months-long online sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl during which she claims he asked her to dress up in 'schoolgirl' outfits for him on a video messaging application and pressed her to engage in 'rape fantasies.'”

By the time of that report, Wiener's sexting relapse had been exposed weeks earlier by the New York Post, which published messages that the former New York congressman exchanged with a "40-something divorcée.” The New York Post story prompted Wiener's wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, to announce she was leaving her husband, but it did not suggest criminal behavior.

The Daily Mail's follow-up story, however, alleged that Weiner had traded sexually explicit messages with an underage girl and caught the FBI's attention. In the process of investigating Weiner, the FBI examined a computer shared by Weiner and Abedin and happened upon emails deemed relevant to the agency's earlier probe of the way Clinton and aides handled classified information during Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

Thus we had the news in October that the FBI was renewing its inquiry into Clinton's use of a private email server. All because of story in a British tabloid.

I wrote in August 2016 about the way British tabloids influence election coverage here in the States, but this is next-level stuff. It is one thing to revive conspiracy theories about the death of Bill Clinton administration counsel Vince Foster; it is another to spur FBI action that rocks the race less than two weeks before Election Day.


Anthony Weiner arrived for sentencing in New York on Sept. 25 after pleading guilty to one count of sending obscene messages to a minor. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)