Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
For everyone who had “Anthony Weiner’s Sexting Scandal Rears It’s Head as a Late October Surprise” on their Election 2016 bingo card, congratulations. For everyone else, hey, only ten days left. There’s some poetic justice in a presidential campaign that’s snaked its way through more revolting muck than most voters thought possible now arriving, for perhaps its final act, in Weiner’s fetid hard drive.
We don’t know more than we do about what’s waiting in the emails the feds discovered on a computer Weiner shared with his now-estranged wife Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide, that compelled them to revisit their investigation of the Democratic nominee’s email practices. And the feds themselves appear similarly in the dark. FBI Director James Comey acknowledged as much in a letter to Congress announcing the discovery, which came about as part of an unrelated probe of Weiner’s sexually explicit communications with underaged North Carolina girl. Comey wrote that the emails “appear to be pertinent “ to the probe the bureau all but concluded in July but that investigators hadn’t yet reviewed them. One official told the LA Times, however, that the emails weren’t to or from Clinton — and contained material that appeared to duplicate what they’d already turned up — and investigators decided to press ahead in an abundance of caution. The scarcity of information prompted some rare bipartisan agreement, with both Democrats and Republicans calling on the FBI to release more from the finding.
Whether the bombshell reshapes a race that Clinton looked on track to win is anybody’s guess. At a minimum, the compounding effect of the new federal look on top of Wikileaks revelations exposing a pay-to-play culture surrounding the Clinton Foundation appears primed to convince some disgusted undecideds to simply stay home. And that could tip the balance in closely contested races down the ballot. It also means that whatever closing argument Clinton hoped to make to voters, a presumably issues-based appeal to shore up a governing mandate, now must take a back seat as the Democrat’s campaign scrambles to contain the damage. And a race that focused on two unpopular personalities to the exclusion of much substance will conclude in the same depressing spirit in which it was waged.
• Clinton could be looking at a 2-point drop, but will it matter?
The revelation by the FBI that it’s reviving its probe of Clinton’s email practices comes as the presidential race she’s been dominating was showing modest but real signs of tightening. While Clinton’s support appeared to be holding steady, Trump was enjoying a boost by bringing home some Republican voters. After FBI director James Comey announced in July that the bureau was recommending against bringing charges in the case — while excoriating Clinton’s carelessness in her handling of classified materials — the Democratic nominee saw her standing in national polls drop two points. A similar effect now would leave Clinton still leading but facing weakened odds. It’s not clear how voters will react, especially when so many have made up their minds and even cast their ballots in early voting.
• Trump looked like a new man on the stump yesterday
Buoyant in the wake of the FBI news, Trump last night sounded a very different note than the one that’s typified his campaign appearances in the closing round of the race. Trump has been conjuring for his crowds a dark vision of the country, which he’s said is controlled by elites who conspire to deny the will of the people, including in elections. But with the revelation of a renewed federal probe into Clinton’s emails, Trump mused that “maybe the system will become a little less rigged.” During a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump blasted Clinton for trying to “politicize this investigation” and for “attacking and falsely accusing the FBI director.” That, despite the fact that Trump had made his own stinging criticism of the agency a feature of his stump speech, continually accusing the FBI and Justice Department of working together to cover up alleged wrongdoing by Clinton.
• Former prosecutors critical of Comey
Former federal prosecutors on Friday expressed shock at FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe. Specifically, they said, Comey’s decision to discuss the case publicly over the summer appeared to have boxed him into revealing, just 11 days before the election, that the bureau is reviving its investigation based on the discovery of new evidence. The director has faced no shortage of political pressure from both sides over the probe, and some speculated his Friday announcement could have been aimed in part at quieting internal critics of his management. It also emboldened alums to put their names on quotes reaming his decision-making on this highly charged and consequential case.
Around the Water Cooler
• Trump’s directed $10 million back to his family
Trump on Friday wrote his campaign a check for $10 million to give it a much-needed cash infusion in the closing days of the race and bring himself slightly closer to meeting the $100 million commitment of personal funds he’s talked up on the trail. Call it a wash, because as it happens, that $10 million sum is roughly equal to what his campaign has spent reimbursing his children for travel and paying family-owned companies for their services. The biggest payments have been to Tag Air, Trump’s airline, which has gotten $6.7 million, and Trump Tower, which has collected $1.4 million in rent. As the candidate told Fortune back in 2000, “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”
Wall Street Journal
• Who could replace Paul Ryan atop the House?
The old rule of Congressional leadership elections is that you can’t beat something with nothing. That may be Paul Ryan’s best hope for hanging on to his Speaker’s gavel, assuming House Republicans keep control of the chamber. Ryan is likely to be working with a significantly diminished majority, making it easier for the hard-right conservatives in his ranks to complicate his reelection as Speaker, a position voted on by the entire House. Ryan has come in for criticism from Trump supporters for holding out on endorsing the Republican nominee and, more recently, announcing that he could no longer defend him though he wouldn’t pull his endorsement. But at the moment, breakaway House conservatives don’t have any credible options for replacing Ryan.
• Yuengling finds presidential endorsement makes for some sour fans
The family behind Yuengling Lager declared their support for Trump earlier this week, but the endorsement isn’t sitting well with some of the beer’s fans in its home state of Pennsylvania, a critical battleground. Some are now calling for boycotts. Yuengling isn’t the first brand to get crosswise with consumers after wading into this particularly acrimonious presidential campaign. The P.G.A., for example, took a hit with Republicans but improved its standing among Democrats after it removed a golf event from a Trump course last summer.
New York Times