WASHINGTON — The reopening Friday of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information via a private server while serving as secretary of State was spurred by a separate sexting probe of former congressman Anthony Weiner, according to a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Federal authorities in New York and North Carolina have been investigating online communications between Weiner and a 15-year-old girl. The government official said Friday that Clinton emails referenced by FBI Director James Comey earlier in the day surfaced during that investigation
The official was familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter by name.
Comey announced earlier Friday that investigators had found new emails related to the bureau's previously-closed inquiry into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information, re-starting a long-simmering debate over the Democratic nominee's conduct as secretary of State in the closing days of a presidential campaign that Clinton appeared to be putting away.
In the letter to senior lawmakers explaining his decision, Comey said "the FBI cannot yet assess" whether the information is "significant" nor could he offer a timetable for how long it will take investigators to make an assessment.
Comey wrote that the discovery of additional messages had occurred "in connection with an unrelated case," leading to the decision to resume the probe. The subject of the unrelated inquiry was not disclosed in the brief letter.
Responding shortly after during a speech in New Hampshire, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gleefully discussed the "breaking news announcement."
"Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale we have never seen before," Trump said, and her "criminal scheme" should not be allowed in the Oval Office.
"Perhaps justice will be done," the GOP nominee said of the development.
Clinton did not address the matter during a Friday speech in Iowa, but her campaign chairman, John Podesta, released a statement late in the afternoon, saying, in part:
"It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.
"(Comey) owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July."
In July, Comey announced that while Clinton and her aides during her tenure as secretary of State had been "extremely careless" in the way they'd handled classified information, he recommended that no criminal charges be filed.
Soon after, the director testified before skeptical Republican lawmakers to explain the bureau's recommendation, which had been adopted by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“We’re mystified and confused by the fact pattern you laid out and the conclusion you reached," House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Comey.
Comey, however, was unequivocal in maintaining that the conclusion of investigators was not a close call.
“There is no way anybody would bring a case against John Doe or Hillary Clinton for the second time in 100 years based on those facts," he told the House panel on July 7.
The news of the FBI's inquiry comes just 11 days before Americans go to the polls in an election where Clinton had opened up a significant lead against Trump.
Trump has cited the closed FBI probe as evidence that the election was "rigged" against him, and at a recent debate the GOP nominee said that, if he's elected president, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton.
Following Comey's announcement Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame."
"This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators," Ryan said in a statement, adding that he was again calling for Clinton to no longer receive classified briefings, a traditional courtesy afforded major-party presidential nominees.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the timing of the decision, so soon before the election, demonstrated "how serious this discovery must be."
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in a statement said the decision "reinforces" what his committee "has been saying for months: the more we learn about Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the clearer it becomes that she and her associates committed wrongdoing and jeopardized national security."
Meanwhile, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, wrote on Twitter that "a great day in our campaign just got even better."
The uncertainty of what the new email review will yield, and when it will be completed, leaves open the question of how much of an impact this will have on the presidential campaign, as Trump looks to mount what would be a historic comeback.
"Unless the FBI closes this new investigation one way or the other next week, the likely impact will be to cut into Clinton’s margin, with the bigger effect being on down-ballot races than on the outcome of the presidential election," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, in an emailed statement.
Whatever the long-term impact, the short-term jolt to Trump and his supporters, at least, seemed clear.
In his New Hampshire speech, the GOP nominee suggested the rest of his message for the day would no longer matter as much, given the FBI announcement.
"The rest of my speech is going to be so boring," he joked.