The FBI, which has been widely criticized for declining to refer criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her use of an unapproved email system for classified information, now is reopening the investigation.
The move was reported Friday by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
He tweeted: "FBI Dir just informed me, 'The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.' Case reopened."
FBI Dir just informed me, "The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation." Case reopened
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) October 28, 2016
The word comes as polls show Clinton's support for her presidential bid is declining.
FBI Director James Comey held a news conference in July to detail the violations the FBI found, including the transmission of classified material over a non-secure system, calling her actions "extremely careless."
But he concluded no charges should be referred to the Justice Department.
"In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton's personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony," Comey wrote.
"In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation."
Comey said he was unsure yet whether the material was significant.
The letter was addressed to several lawmakers who held committee hearings on the issue.
NBC News reported a Clinton campaign spokesperson responded to the news with, "No idea."
As news was breaking of Comey's decision, Clinton herself was apparently in the dark because the Wi-Fi on board her campaign plane was reportedly out.
According to Clinton's advisers and aides, they were notified about the investigation at the same time the rest of the world was.
The campaign was “caught off guard” by the news “to say the least,” CNN's Phil Mattingly reported.
Mattingly phoned into CNN en route to Clinton’s campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“When we landed we were all finding out about this at the same time, and that apparently includes Hillary Clinton and her advisers.”
Clinton ignored shouted questions from reporters about the FBI investigation as she walked off her plane Friday. She smiled and waved to reporters gathered on the tarmac, but made no comments.
The chairman of Clinton's campaign, John Podesta, says he is confident the new FBI investigation will not produce any conclusions different from the one the agency reached in July, reported the Associated Press.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” Podesta said in a statement.
Podesta also said the FBI director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what his agents are now examining.
"FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen. Already, we have seen characterizations that the FBI is 'reopening' an investigation but Comey's words do not match that characterization," Podesta said in a statement.
Podesta also took a shot at Donald Trump for "baselessly second-guessing the FBI" and "browbeating the career officials there to revisit their conclusion."
Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., blasted Comey for sending the letter to Congress about the investigation.
“Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development,” Feinstein said in a statement.
“However, one thing is clear: Director Comey’s announcement played right into the political campaign of Donald Trump, who is already using the letter for political purposes. And all of this just 11 days before the election.”
The FBI's action comes as the Clinton campaign has identified as its biggest hurdle the fact that many simply don't believe her anymore.
Last month, Comey rejected calls to reopen the investigation into the private email server through which she directed classified national security details.
At that time, he told Congress none of the revelations that had developed since he locked down the case in July "would come near" to making him take that step.
The Washington Times reported, "He also refused to say if he's investigating whether Mrs. Clinton lied in her testimony to Congress about her emails – but said they have received referrals from Congress asking for a new probe."
When the email scandal is brought up, the Clinton campaign defends the candidate by insisting the FBI cleared her.
The FBI's assessment in July, however, wasn't quite so complimentary.
Investigators found they probably couldn't make charges stick because Clinton isn't sophisticated enough to know the "risks" she was running with a separate email system, "or even to understand the classification system in which she was a key player," the Times reported.
Trump announced the "breaking news" about the reinvigorated investigation to a cheering crowd during a rally in New Hampshire, saying, “I think they’re going to right the ship, folks.”
“I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made,” Trump said. “This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood, and it is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected.”
He added, “Perhaps finally justice will be done.”
"We call on the FBI to immediately release all emails pertinent to their investigation. Americans have the right to know before Election Day," tweeted Trump's running mate Mike Pence.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pointed to the timing of Friday’s "stunning development."
“The FBI’s decision to reopen their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's secret email server just eleven days before the election shows how serious this discovery must be,” he said in a written statement. “This stunning development raises serious questions about what records may not have been turned over and why and whether they show intent to violate the law.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Clinton had “nobody but herself to blame" and that he would renew his call for the director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Clinton until the investigation is over.
“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 written statement.
Meanwhile, the White House said it was given no prior notice about Comey’s letter to Congress on the matter.
“The only notification we’ve received is the letter that was made public by press reports from Director Comey to Capitol Hill,” deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We had that letter after it was made public, so we did not have advance warning.”
The letter was sent to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Ohio, head of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary; Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary; Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., head of the Committee on Appropriations; Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Chaffetz.
Republican Party of Virginia chairman John Whitbeck said in a statement: "FBI investigations aren't reopened 11 days before an election unless something truly significant has been discovered. That's the problem with Hillary Clinton: there will always be one more email, one more scandal lurking. Virginia, and all of America, deserve better."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he plans to work with Goodlatte and others "to ensure the FBI completes its investigation thoroughly and impartially this time around."
"This decision shows exactly why we need strong watchdogs in Congress to ensure thorough oversight of the executive branch. The federal government constantly needs to be held accountable to curb poor judgment -- like using a private server to circumvent federal records laws -- and incomplete investigations that fail to deliver justice and erode public faith in government. This decision also makes clear that Hillary Clinton's continued efforts to deceive the public on her actions that willingly put classified information at risk, need to come to an end," said Issa.
Talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh suggested during his broadcast Friday the FBI's announcement is nothing more than a ruse "to take everyone’s attention off of the WikiLeaks email dump."
"So you announce you’re opening the inquiry, get everybody all hot and bothered and focused on it, and then after three or four or five days, announce that it was a false alarm, nothing to see here," said Limbaugh. "The investigation is now officially over — and, meanwhile, in that five-day period everybody’s forgotten about WikiLeaks."
There has been no end to the email controversy over Clinton's use of an unsecured system for classified details, with recent revelations from WikiLeaks even confirming members of her staff were horrified by her used of a private server.
WND also reported just weeks ago that a "smoking gun" in the scandal might have been found, as an aide apparently had asked the online community about the best process for stripping out IDs from archived emails.
Limbaugh immediately credited the Reddit community for the discovery of what he called the "smoking gun on Hillary's email deletion."
"Apparently somebody working IT for Hillary went to Reddit and ask[ed] Redditors if any of them knew how to do this! 'Do you know how to strip/remove content from very VIP emails?' This request was made on July 24, 2014," he said.
"You know what happened? You know what happened the day before? On July 23, 2014, a congressional committee chaired by Trey Gowdy confirmed a deal to get Hillary Clinton's records and emails.
"After that is when somebody from her IT team, it is suspected, got hold of Reddit and said, 'Is there anybody here who can tell me how to mass, to in bulk delete, and remove content of very VIP email?'"
The claims were outlined by Guy Benson at Townhall.
"'Smoking gun' may be a slight exaggeration, but the circumstantial case here looks pretty strong. Bravo to the Internet sleuths who ferreted out this virtual paper trail, which leads back to a techie who was granted immunity by U.S. officials in the course of their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal," he wrote.
That blog said there's "compelling circumstantial evidence" that a poster who was identified as "stonetear" could be Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks tech who worked on Hillary Clinton's email.
He recently was granted immunity from the feds for his testimony.
The blogger's explanation continues, with the reference to the dates, the July 23 House Select Committee on Benghazi agreement on the production of Clinton's records and emails, and the subsequent request for advice on stripping emails on the 24th.
"Oddly enough, stonetear seems to have been interested in precisely the same recordkeeping issues that Paul Combetta would have been interested in with Hillary Clinton as his client at precisely the same times that he would have been most interested," the blogger pointed out.
"Equally oddly, all traces of stonetear seem to be disappearing from reddit this afternoon, now that members there are sifting through his archive of posts."
The questions continued, "Assuming steontear is in fact Paul Combetta, why was Combetta looking at ways to 'strip out' a certain unnamed VIP's email address from archived emails after a congressional committee had expressed interest in those emails?"
The blogger wrote that there was speculation that "Combetta might have wanted Clinton's address off certain emails in order to avoid discovery requests related to the investigation. If the House Benghazi committee demanded every email sent to or by Hillary Clinton, then one easy way to avoid producing a particular email would be to simply scrub her address from it."
Summarized Limbaugh, "So the very day after the Gowdy committee confirms it's going to get her records, a Hillary IT tech asks Reddit how to strip VIP email and email addresses from the archives of what she's gonna send."