As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton launched their final sprints across the country Sunday to court voters, FBI Director James Comey said that after reviewing newly discovered Clinton emails, his agency had again determined that the Democratic presidential candidate should face no criminal charges for her email practices.
Comey’s announcement Sunday cleared a distraction that had dogged the final days of Clinton’s campaign and providing perhaps the last twist of the wild 2016 election year.
The FBI director notified key members of Congress of the finding in a letter sent Sunday afternoon, writing that that investigators had worked “around the clock” to review all the emails found on a device used by former congressman Anthony Weiner that had been sent to or from Clinton and determined that the emails did not change “our conclusions expressed in July.”
Investigators reviewing the material found that the emails were either duplicates of correspondence they had reviewed earlier or personal emails that did not pertain to State Department business, a government official said. The official said Comey’s letter was not an “interim report” but rather represented a conclusion of the investigation.
A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment beyond Comey’s letter. A Department of Justice spokesman said only that the department and FBI had “dedicated all necessary resources to conduct this review expeditiously.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted in response: “We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited. Now Director Comey has confirmed it.”
The news hit as Clinton and her campaign team flew from Philadelphia to Cleveland for a campaign event. Some aides read the news on a phone passed around the staff cabin before the plane lost satellite wifi ahead of landing.
After she landed, Clinton was introduced by Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James, part of an effort to spark enthusiasm in Ohio, a state where polls have showed Trump leading.
Trump, who had charged for weeks that the FBI investigation had been rigged because it did not result in criminal charges for Clinton, instead announced that he had “great respect” for the FBI. At a rally in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon Trump did not address Comey’s announcement directly but instead claimed, without evidence, that Clinton “will be under investigation for a long, long time … likely concluding in a criminal trial.”
“You have to understand, it’s a rigged system, and she’s protected,” he said, as supporters chanted, “Lock her up!”
Asked Sunday to react to Comey’s announcement, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that “he’s mishandled the investigation from the beginning.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that regardless of Comey’s announcement, “the undisputed finding of the FBI’s investigation is that Secretary Clinton put our nation’s secrets at risk and in doing so compromised our national security.”
“Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again. Let’s bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday,” Ryan said in a statement.
Both candidates were scrambling Sunday to gain advantage in some newly competitive battleground states as well as lock down others where they’ve held leads.
In attempt to cobble together the 270 electoral votes needed to win, Trump has new targets in his sights in historically Democratic states including Minnesota, as well as New Mexico and Michigan.
Once thought to be safe for Democrats, Michigan has become a last-minute battleground, with Clinton heading to Grand Rapids on Monday, the campaign announced this weekend. President Barack Obama, who won Michigan twice, will campaign in Ann Arbor on Monday. And former President Bill Clinton made a stop in Lansing on Sunday after visiting churches in Flint.
Clinton campaigned in Philadelphia on Sunday after attending a get-out-the-vote concert in the city on Saturday night. And she will return to the state for two rallies on the eve of Election Day, a sign that the Keystone State is among the battlegrounds where her lead over Trump has dwindled in recent days.
She used the Cleveland rally to argue that Trump has a “dark and divisive” vision of the country and that she is offering something more hopeful.
“I want an America where everyone has a place, where everyone is included,” Clinton said. “And I know there is a lot of frustration, even anger, in this election season. I see it, I hear it, you know, I’m a subject of it. I get it. But anger is not a plan. Anger is not going to get us new jobs.”
The more optimistic look toward the future was a script her campaign had hoped to use as a springboard past the exceptional rancor of the last several months of her contest with Trump, but it had been muted somewhat by the uncertainty surrounding the renewed FBI inquiry and the tightening polls.
Sunday’s event was Clinton’s last scheduled visit to Ohio, where she trails despite heavy emphasis on turning out black voters in Cleveland. James was part of that effort, as were husband-and-wife singers Jay-Z and Beyonce, who performed a get-out-the-vote concert with Clinton on Friday night.
A top Clinton aide said Sunday that the race is effectively over and that the campaign believes Clinton will hold on to blue, upper Midwestern states such as Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We think we have this race over,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said Sunday morning on ABC News’ “This Week.” “We’re going to get over our 270 electoral votes.”
Clinton also deployed a full slate of high-level surrogates around the country on Sunday, including President Barack Obama, who appeared in Kissimmee, Florida, and poked fun at Trump.
“Apparently his campaign has taken his Twitter,” Obama told the crowd at Osceola County Stadium. “In the last two days, they had so little confidence in his self-control, they said we’re just gonna take away your Twitter. Now, if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes.”
Trump’s Twitter account, however, showed several tweets from the candidate Sunday.
Trump started his five-state swing in Sioux City in eastern Iowa, close to the Nebraska border. Nebraska is one of two states that can split its electoral votes between candidates, and in 2008, one electoral vote from the Omaha area went to Obama.
He was also scheduled to make stops in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Trump was to return to Northern Virginia on Sunday night as Republicans see new hope in a state where Clinton has long held a comfortable lead.
Ahead of Trump’s visit to Sterling Heights, Michigan, the city’s Muslims are bracing themselves for the arrival of a candidate who has pledged to bar Muslims from entering the country.
“It is unnerving to have him here, so close,” Syed Razvi said as he left Saturday evening prayers at the American Muslim Diversity Association mosque. “Before Trump’s candidacy, if you meet anybody around here, no problem. Now everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a Muslim.’”
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign continues to use its huge financial advantage over Trump to press its case to swing voters on the airwaves.
The campaign on Sunday released two national ads appealing to moderate and Republican voters to reject Trump and embrace Clinton. Both ads feature straight-to-camera testimonials from Republican military veterans who say they cannot vote for their party’s nominee, citing Trump’s comments about women. Another two-minute ad will air Monday night, aimed at reaching about 20 million people, according to a campaign aide.
Trump also released a closing campaign ad, a two-minute spot tying Clinton to the “failed and corrupt political establishment” and “global special interests.” But the ad, which features images of piles of cash along with Jewish corporate and financial leaders, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, was sharply criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for what it called anti-Semitic overtones.
“Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “This needs to stop.”
Nationally, Clinton leads Trump 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.
In the closing days of the campaign, polling averages compiled by The Washington Post in battleground states continue to show several close contests.
In Michigan, Clinton holds just a two-point edge over Trump, 43 to 41 percent. She also holds a slim lead in Florida (47-46) and in New Hampshire (43-41).
Clinton planned a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Sunday with Khizr Khan. He is the father of fallen soldier Capt. Humayun Khan, whose challenge to Trump over the Republican’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration was among the most memorable moments of the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton holds slightly larger leads in Pennsylvania (47-42) and New Mexico (41-36).
Trump, meanwhile, leads in Ohio (46-44) and Nevada (47-43).
In North Carolina, the candidates are deadlocked (46-46).
Poll averages calculated by The Post for Clinton and Trump reflect recent polls that also include Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and independent candidate Evan McMullin where they are on the ballot and where results are available.
Washington Post writers Ellen Nakashima, Anne Gearan, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.