FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the bureau had completed its examination of newly discovered emails connected to Hillary Clinton — an inquiry that had roiled the presidential race for nine days — and found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.
In a letter to congressional committee chairmen, Comey said investigators had worked “around the clock” to review the emails. The investigators found that the emails were either duplicates of correspondence they had reviewed earlier or were personal emails that did not pertain to State Department business, government officials said.
The emails were on a computer used by former congressman Anthony Weiner — the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin — that was seized during an FBI investigation into lewd text messages that Weiner (D-N.Y.) is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl.
In late October, Comey said that some of the emails on the computer, sent or received by Abedin, may have been “pertinent” to an FBI investigation of a private server that Clinton used to conduct government business.
On Sunday, however, Comey said that after reviewing emails on the computer, “we have not changed our conclusions expressed in July.”
A Clinton spokeswoman on Sunday made a brief statement to reporters on the Democratic nominee’s plane: “We are glad to see that . . . he has confirmed the conclusions that he reached in July,” Jennifer Palmieri said of Comey. “We are glad that this matter is resolved.”
This summer, Comey had ended an FBI probe into the server by saying that although he believed Clinton was “extremely careless” with classified information in the emails, Comey felt that “no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend criminal charges.
One of the government officials said Comey’s letter on Sunday was not an “interim report” but rather represented a conclusion of the investigation.
So, after nine days of uncertainty, the FBI’s investigators had ended where they began.
In the meantime, however, much had changed.
Comey — a nine-day hero to some on the right — was now under criticism from both sides, for jumping into the late stages of a presidential race and then trying to jump back out.
The FBI itself had been drawn into partisan politics, as leaks revealed internal fights between agents and prosecutors squabbling over proposed investigations of the Clinton family.
The presidential race had also been altered.
Republican Donald Trump, who had been trailing badly in the polls when the new emails were revealed, had since narrowed the gap, leaning on a message that Clinton was “crooked” and likely to be charged.
Clinton, who had been trying to expand the electoral map by focusing on red states that included Georgia and Arizona, drew back to defend blue turf like Michigan and Pennsylvania. In those days, millions of votes were cast.
In Colorado, for instance, voters submit their ballots by mail. Daniel Cole, a Republican strategist in the state, said the number of Democrats returning ballots had been surging past the GOP total — until Comey announced his inquiry.
Then, on Friday, the GOP total actually eclipsed the Democrats.
“There was an enthusiasm gap,” Cole said. “Until the latest bend in the email scandal, the wind was kind of out of our sails.”
Across the country, Clinton remained a clear favorite in the race, even before Comey’s announcement that the new inquiry was over.
Clinton led by two to five points in national surveys, held narrow polling leads in a slew of swing states, and had been encouraged by a surge in early voting among Latinos in the key battlegrounds of Nevada and Florida.
During an afternoon rally in Cleveland, Clinton made no mention of Comey’s decision, perhaps calculating that once again reminding voters of the original email investigation would do more harm than good.
Instead, she focused, as she has at other recent rallies, on an optimistic look ahead.
“I want an America where everyone has a place, where everyone is included,” Clinton said. “And I know there is a lot of frustration, even anger, in this election season. I see it, I hear it, you know, I’m a subject of it. I get it. But anger is not a plan. Anger is not going to get us new jobs.”
Sunday’s event was Clinton’s last scheduled visit to Ohio, where she has trailed Trump in most recent polls despite a heavy emphasis on turning out black voters in Cleveland. This rally included Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, an Ohio native. On Friday, husband and wife singers Jay Z and Beyoncé had performed at another Clinton rally in Cleveland.
In his first rally after the news broke, Trump called Clinton the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency, and he predicted that her term in office would be shadowed by investigations. Later Sunday, in Sterling Heights, Mich., he said: “Hillary Clinton is guilty. She’s knows it. The FBI knows it. . . . Now it’s up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on Nov. 8.”
Trump has been praised in recent days for avoiding the kind of insults and outbursts that had alienated voters in the past. A New York Times article on Sunday said that campaign aides have wrested away control of Trump’s Twitter account, which the candidate had used to shoot himself in the metaphorical foot.
But on Sunday — while Clinton sought to lay out an optimistic, national message — Trump was in Minnesota, warning about a local immigrant population: Somalis, largely Muslim, who have left their war-ravaged country and settled in large numbers around Minneapolis.
“You don’t even have the right to talk about it. You don’t even know who’s coming in. You have no idea. You’ll find out. You’ll find out,” Trump said.
He mentioned a recent case in which 10 people were stabbed at a Minnesota mall. The attacker was a Somali man who had immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 2. A news agency tied to the Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the man was a “soldier” for the group.
“You’ve suffered enough in Minnesota,” Trump said.
He said Clinton would allow more refugees to enter: “Her plan will import generations of terrorism.”
In the last few days of the campaign, Trump has decided to invest time and resources in blue-leaning Midwestern states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Most recent opinion polls show Clinton leading in all three, but Trump is hoping for a surge among white voters who lack college degrees.
At each stop on Sunday, Trump was greeted by thousands of adoring fans. His aides saw these crowds as reason to hope for victories on Tuesday.
On Monday, the day before Election Day, Trump’s schedule reflects his tough position — needing to win a string of states where the race is either tied or he is behind.
He will hold five rallies in a day, jetting from Florida to North Carolina to Pennsylvania to New Hampshire and then to Michigan.
Clinton, by contrast, will appear in three states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the FBI declined to comment on Comey’s letter. A Justice Department spokesman said only that the department and the FBI had “dedicated all necessary resources to conduct this review expeditiously.”
The newly discovered emails came from a laptop owned by Weiner. Abedin has told people close to her that she does not know how her emails ended up on her husband’s laptop.
Comey had come under fire for inserting the FBI into the campaign’s final days after senior Justice Department officials warned him not to. Justice Department policy discourages the bureau from taking steps in the days before an election in an attempt to avoid the perception that the FBI is trying to the influence the outcome.
On Sunday, Comey’s three-paragraph letter was sent to the chairmen of the Homeland Security, Judiciary, Appropriations and Oversight and Government Reform committees and was copied to the ranking Democratic members. Comey said the FBI had performed an “extraordinary amount of high-quality work in a short period of time.”
Asked Sunday to react to Comey’s announcement, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that “he’s mishandled the investigation from the beginning.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that regardless of Comey’s announcement, “the undisputed finding of the FBI’s investigation is that Secretary Clinton put our nation’s secrets at risk and in doing so compromised our national security.”
“Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again. Let’s bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday,” Ryan said in a statement.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the “vague” announcement by the FBI failed to provide context, and he was unsure even if the review was over.
“The growing number of unanswered questions demand explanations,” Grassley said. Is the FBI continuing to review the newly-revealed emails? Did the FBI limit its review to email from when Clinton was Secretary of State, leaving out emails that could shed light on possible obstruction of Congress?”
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the announcement “affirms and vindicates” the FBI’s July decision.
“Over the past week, Republicans have engaged in wild speculation and launched unsubstantiated accusations, but the FBI has determined — yet again — that they are without merit,” he said. “Now it is time for the American people to go forward based on the facts.”
Johnson reported from Minneapolis. Anne Gearan in Cleveland, Dave Weigel in Colorado Springs and Tom Hamburger, John Wagner, Abby Phillip, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin in Washington contributed to this report.