The biggest controversy haunting Hillary Clinton's campaign has been given new life. The FBI investigation into Clinton's private email server is not over. More than three months after the Justice Department finished the probe with no criminal charges, the FBI director dropped a bombshell.
James Comey told Congress, FBI agents have discovered emails that appear to be related to a review of classified information on the server that Clinton used as secretary of state. This evening, Hillary Clinton responded. And with us to talk about this is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.
Carrie, first, what exactly is the FBI looking at now?
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The FBI director sent a letter to oversight committees in Congress saying his agents learned about new emails that appear to be pertinent to the Clinton email probe. In September, James Comey told lawmakers he'd look at any new information that emerged and, Robert, that's what's happening now. Comey says he can't assess if this new material is significant. And he can't tell how long it will take to weed through all the documents. The FBI won't say exactly how many emails there are.
SIEGEL: How did these new messages come to light, Carrie?
JOHNSON: The FBI director said the information emerged in an unrelated criminal case. He didn't say which one. But a source told me it relates to Anthony Weiner, who's married to Clinton's close aide Huma Abedin. Weiner's been under investigation for sexting in — with an under-age girl. And authorities seized some of the electronics in his house, which led them to this new material.
In other words, it's not anything the FBI missed on Clinton's server the first time around. And it's not clear whether Clinton sent or received any of the new messages. The key question for the FBI is whether any of the new emails contained classified information.
SIEGEL: Carrie, the timing of this letter is remarkable. We're 11 days from the presidential election. Is the government saying anything about that?
JOHNSON: The Justice Department has no comment. It's been referring all questions to the FBI. But DOJ has some guidelines about elections. The rules say prosecutors and investigators should be very careful not to take steps that could influence the outcome of an election. This is a strong tradition. Normally, it's guidance for things like state House races, let alone for president of the United States.
And in his letter to Congress, the FBI director says he told lawmakers the matter was done. Now it's not, that's why he's giving them this notice. Sources tell me they doubt all of the investigative work will be over at any time before the election.
SIEGEL: Now late today, Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Iowa. And she held a brief news conference to address the FBI action. What did she say?
JOHNSON: Well, Hillary Clinton said that she wasn't sure exactly what the FBI was looking at. Let's take a listen to what else she had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
HILLARY CLINTON: We don't know the facts, which is why we are calling on the FBI to release all the information that it has. Even Director Comey noted that this new information may not be significant, so let's get it out.
JOHNSON: And Hillary Clinton added that people already — in her view, a long time ago — made up their minds about her emails. Her campaign says they're confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July. Which, of course, Robert, was apparently closing the matter or nearly closing the matter with no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton or anyone else.
SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.
JOHNSON: You're welcome.