FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about a recent discovery of more emails that may be relevant to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices has dominated the news cycle, but a political science professor at the University of Connecticut doesn’t believe it will impact Connecticut’s vote.
Paul Herrnson, professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said Sunday, “I really don’t see this having much impact – especially here in Connecticut.”
Republican Donald Trump who had been sliding in the poll used the new information to campaign in blue states. On Monday he is holding a pair of rallies in Michigan, which like Connecticut has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
“It may discourage a few Democrats from going to the polls and encourage a few Republicans,” Herrnson said Sunday. “But Connecticut is not a competitive state when it comes to the presidential election. This scandal has had a long life and it hasn’t had an impact on the strong pro-Clinton sentiment in Connecticut.”
Asked whether he sees the impact of the scandal filtering down into the lower races on the Connecticut ballot, beyond the presidential race, Herrnson said: “Very unlikely. I don’t see it having an impact in Connecticut at any level.’’
Herrnson did say, however, that in “swing states’’ such as Ohio, Comey’s controversial decision could play a role.
“States like Ohio, not Connecticut is where the Republicans are likely to spend a lot of advertising dollars in the days leading up to the election to hammer home their criticism of Clinton on this issue,’’ Herrnson said.
Comey, a Republican and Connecticut resident appointed three years ago by President Barack Obama, sent a vaguely worded letter Friday to Republicans in Congress.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote. “I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigate 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.”
It’s been widely reported that the emails were taken from the computer of former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and belonged to his estranged wife Huma Abedin, who worked as a top aide to Clinton when she was Secretary of State. Weiner is being investigated for sexting with an underage girl.
In July, Comey said Clinton had been careless in using a private server, but there was no basis for recommending a prosecution.
While Herrnson, said he didn’t think Comey’s decision would have much of an impact on the presidential, or any other, race on Election Day in Connecticut, another Connecticut political observer was critical of the FBI director’s decision.
William Dunlap, professor of law at Quinnipiac University, said Comey’s decision “strikes me as a remarkable violation of Justice Department procedure.’’
“How often have you heard the phrase: We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation?,” Dunlap said. “The FBI should not be taking actions that could affect the outcome of an election – that is abundantly clear.”
Comey explained his decision to provide Congress with the information in a letter to FBI employees.
“We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” Comey wrote. “I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.”
Clinton’s campaign and allies quickly decried the timing, and the candidate herself on Friday forcefully called on the FBI to release the “full and complete facts” about its review.
“Voting is underway, so the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” Clinton said at a brief news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, adding it was “imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay.”
There is no specific U.S. Department of Justice rule that spells out exactly when an investigation that could impact the results of an election should be disclosed.
However, “certainly something coming 11 days before a presidential election that has been going on forever absolutely, positively raises questions,” Dunlap said.