GREELEY, Colo. — Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of “willful and deliberate criminal conduct” on Sunday in the wake of news that the FBI is renewing its probe into her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
At a campaign stop here, Trump highlighted reports that investigators were sifting through some-650,000 emails from a separate investigation into disgraced former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to determine any ties to the Clinton probe.
“In the diamond business, in the coal business … they go, ‘This could be the mother lode!” Trump said. “This could be the 33,000 that are missing. This could be the 20,000 that are missing.”
“I would think they have some real bad ones, but we’re gonna find out...Maybe not,” he added.
FBI Director James B. Comey reignited a political firestorm over the emails when he alerted select members of Congress on Friday that FBI officials had detected a batch of emails pertinent to the case during an “unrelated” investigation. Persons close to the situation have told The Washington Post that the emails were found on a computer belonging to Weiner, who is under investigation for allegedly exchanging lewd messages with a 15-year-old girl. Weiner is the estranged husband of top Clinton adviser Huma Abedin.
On Sunday night, the FBI obtained a warrant to review the emails, which one official said contains a significant number of correspondences associated with Clinton and Abedin.
n his letter to Congress, Comey said that whether the emails provide any new information to the Clinton investigation had yet to be determined, but Democrats worry the news could sway the election.
Clinton on Sunday made no direct mention of the FBI controversy, but on several occasions seemed to allude to it during campaign stops in Florida, a key battleground state.
“I want you to know, I am focused on one thing: you, the problems that keep you up at night,” Clinton said during an event in Wilton Manors, Fla. “There’s a lot of noise and distraction, but it really comes down to what kind of future we want.”
At that event, which was focused on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Clinton blasted Trump on two fronts: for having “a terrible record on LGBT rights” and for taking credit for charitable contributions he didn’t make. Clinton recounted the lead anecdote in a Post story about how Trump had inexplicably showed up and taken a seat on stage for a 1996 ribbon-cutting in Manhattan for a new nursery school serving children with AIDS despite having donated nothing to the project.
“No, really, who does that?” Clinton asked to an enthusiastic crowd packed into a small venue. “With Donald, it’s always Donald Trump first and everyone else last.”
Trump’s campaign expressed optimism Sunday that they have “tremendous momentum” in the final days of the election, with national polls showing him and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat at the same time her team grapples with the FBI announcement.
Trump bragged about his new strength in recent polls Sunday morning, despite repeatedly claiming in recent weeks that polls were “rigged” against him. The celebrity businessman also claimed, without evidence, that “Twitter, Google and Facebook are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton.”
“We’re leading in so many polls. We’re leading by four points in Florida,” Trump told his supporters in Colorado, citing a New York Times poll.
Later, at the top of his rally in Albuquerque, Trump claimed he was “tied” in New Mexico, without presenting any specific polling evidence. His campaign has said that they will seek to compete in blue states including New Mexico, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
“We’re tied — that’s not so good — we’re tied in New Mexico,” Trump said. He added: “We’re going to win New Mexico.”
Trump said he and his team set up his rally here just a couple of days ago because they had heard he was doing well in the state. An average of polls by RealClearPolitics shows Trump trailing Clinton by an average of 8.5 percent.
“I think the least of her problems right now is this race,” he added, alluding to the FBI investigation.
Florida is seen as a key battleground state, with an electoral college victory for Trump seen as nearly impossible without him winning there. Trump, however, started the day in Nevada, where he stopped by a nondenominational church in Las Vegas, where he also held a rally.
Clinton also urged churchgoers in Florida on Sunday not to be “distracted by all the noise in the political environment.” During remarks to about 300 people at the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, one of several planned stops for the day in the Miami area, Clinton made no mention of the renewed FBI scrutiny, but stressed the value of perseverance when confronting obstacles in life.
“Everyone — everyone — is knocked down in life,” Clinton told the predominantly black congregation. “And as my mother showed me and taught me, what matters is whether you get back up. And those of us who are people of faith know that getting back up is what we are called to do.”
Earlier Sunday, Clinton dropped in on an early voting brunch sponsored by two Democratic groups in Miami at Fado’s, an Irish pub.
“These last nine days we can really race to the finish line,” Clinton told a crowd of about 40 people, who she urged to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot.
“If any of you know anyone who is thinking about voting for Trump, I want you to stage an intervention,” Clinton added. “Because friends don’t let friends vote for Trump.”
The email controversy was the focal point of interviews with Trump and Clinton surrogates on the Sunday morning political shows.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said that he feels “tremendous momentum in this campaign” during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” and that Trump would likely inject more of his personal wealth into his campaign in the remaining days.
Clinton and other Democrats were hitting hard at Comey, attacking his announcement as inappropriate and unfair this close to Election Day.
The highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, Harry M. Reid said that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from using their positions for political purposes.
“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated 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,” Reid wrote. “I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election.”
“Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” added the Nevada Democrat.
A bipartisan group of nearly 100 former Department of Justice officials signed a letter by former attorney general Eric Holder and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson, who worked in the Obama and Bush administrations, respectively, questioning Comey’s actions.
“Director Comey’s letter is inconsistent with prevailing Department policy, and it breaks with longstanding practices followed by officials of both parties during past elections,” the letter states.
Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), called the FBI announcement “extremely puzzling” during an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “Why would you release information that is so incomplete when you haven’t even seen the material yourself? Eleven days before an election, why would you talk about an ongoing investigation? I just have no way of understanding these actions. They’re completely unprecedented. And that’s why I think [Comey] owes the American public more information.”
Pence criticized Clinton and her allies for questioning Comey’s decision and motives during an appearance on CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday, but avoided answering questions about Trump’s own accusations of “corruption” against the FBI and the Justice Department in recent weeks.
“I think what you see here is an example of real leadership,” Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“That’s because we thought the investigation never should have been closed . . . It was just incomprehensible when the director of the FBI came out and literally indicted Hillary Clinton in the press and then said we’re not recommending that she be indicted.”
Until now, the issue of Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state seemed to be receding, and she had sounded increasingly confident as she maintained a lead in most national polls over the past several weeks.
But polls had begun to tighten even before the FBI development. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll released Sunday showed Clinton’s lead over Trump narrowing to just one percentage point.
The ABC-Post poll also showed that the majority of likely voters remain unmoved by the FBI’s announcement, but 34 percent did say they are less likely to vote for Clinton as a result. About two-thirds of those respondents were Republicans or Republican leaning independent voters.
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, characterized the FBI’s unprecedented announcement as proof that there is something questionable in the new batch of emails, which the FBI has not suggested.
Trump “just sees that there’s this constant cloud of corruption that follows Hillary Clinton around. And for the FBI to make this remarkable move 11 days before the election means there must be something there,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Look, I think for the voters at this stage, this plays right into their reluctance about Hillary Clinton anyway . . . So there is political currency attached to this.”
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta defended Abedin during an interview with CNN in which host Jake Tapper asked whether Abedin had withheld information from the FBI.
“I think it’s clear that she complied to the best of her ability turned everything over that she had in her possession. I don’t know anything more than the speculation that’s running wild in the press now about what this is about,” Podesta said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I don’t think she knows anything more than what we have seen in the press to date.”
The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, announced that Kaine would campaign in Arizona later this week, showing that the campaign is still interested in expanding the electoral map even as many in the Democratic Party argue the campaign should retrench and focus on key states.
Jose A. DelReal and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.