The October surprise that threatened to upend the presidential race days before Election Day has turned into the November 180 that could return the contest onto the trajectory it been on after all.
Call it the granddaddy of all Emily Litella moments.
With a curt, three-paragraph letter to congressional leaders on Sunday, FBI director James Comey essentially declared, “never mind.”
“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusion that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” Comey wrote. With that, he signaled that a new review of recently discovered emails did nothing to alter the conclusion he reached over the summer that Hillary Clinton should not face charges over her handling of classified information while secretary of state.
Comey faced an avalanche of criticism for his decision less than two weeks before the election to announce that a new investigation of Clinton was underway. There were calls for him to resign and declarations that he had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their office to attempt to affect the outcome of an election.
The New Yorker’s Ryan LIzza, however, wrote after Comey’s October bombshell landed that Clinton would ultimately be grateful for it — should she win. Lizza maintained that discovery of a laptop shared by disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, put Comey and the FBI in a no-win situation.
He argued that Comey’s disclosure was sure to rock the race and prompt charges that he was inappropriately influencing the presidential election. But had Comey held back news of the newly discovered emails — as Attorney General Loretta Lynch urged — he would be accused of “caving” to Democratic partisans, says Lizza. What’s more, he says, although Comey’s October disclosure was a break with standard Justice Department practice, “the fact that Lynch encouraged Comey to keep quiet is likely to have made Comey more certain that he needed to disclose.” And had the news not leaked until after Clinton took office, Lizza says Republicans would have cried “cover-up” and the first scandal of the Clinton presidency would be underway.
Until 10 days ago, the Anthony Weiner spectacle looked like a bizarre sideshow to the presidential race. In the most recent circus act, the FBI initially began investigating reports that he had used the internet to engage inappropriately with a 15-year-old girl. When that investigation morphed into yet another look at Hillary Clinton’s email practices, it was hard to escape the sense that history was repeating itself and that, incredibly, the Clintons were once again in full crisis mode because of a powerful man with difficulty keeping his pants on.
Lizza, in his October 30 New Yorker piece, also maintained that the new FBI investigation was likely to amount to not very much, and that it was unlikely to change the race. ”[N]ews stories that seem potentially game-changing in an election rarely are,” he wrote. “They last a few days and then fade. (Remember when the video of Clinton appearing to faint was going to cost her the election?)”
In this case, that proved to be anything but true, as undecided voters in a fickle electorate, which has shown little enthusiasm for either candidate, seemed to start swinging toward Trump on news of the latest Clinton email controversy. Clinton went from being seen as a near shoo-in two weeks ago to on the ropes in recent days with a real chance of losing the race.
A Globe editorial this morning says there are enough questions about Comey’s actions and the internal workings of the FBI, including reports that Trump-supporting FBI agents were poised to leak word of the latest look at emails, to warrant congressional hearings on the matter.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver says it’s hard to say whether the late reversal in the email tale will help Clinton, and adds that it’s probably coming too late for most polls to be able to gauge that.
The Globe’s Scot Lehigh says yesterday’s announcement from Comey “should help lock in the Electoral College votes that Clinton needs for a victory on Tuesday. Mind you, she was already on her way to a win, but this removes a large cloud that had made the contest a white-knuckle affair.”
In 30 or 40 hours we should know if he’s right.
[The lead Download item has been corrected to reflect the fact that Emily Litella, not Roseanne Roseannadanna, was the Gilda Radner character whose trademark line FBI director James Comey effectively reprised yesterday. As for the original crediting of the line to Ms. Roseannadanna, another excellent Radner character, never mind.]
Despite strong opposition in the Legislature and a negative Supreme Judicial Court ruling, Eversource Energy seems very confident it will move ahead with the Access Northeast natural gas pipeline. (CommonWealth)
Attorney General Maura Healey and gun owners continue to tussle over her order on what she calls copycat assault weapons and her decision to pursue safety-related documents from gun manufacturers. (Salem News) So far, the courts have sided with Healey on challenges to her actions. (Masslive)
Massachusetts gains federal approval for a big Medicaid overhaul. (CommonWealth)
Southborough selectmen have voted to hold a hearing on potentially removing a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for what a petition signed by hundreds of residents say is his “sexist and appalling treatment of women” at board hearings. (MetroWest Daily News)
Brockton officials say a planned 474-space parking garage built with a $10 million grant from the state will “unlock” development in the north side of the downtown area. (The Enterprise)
Gordon Humphrey, the conservative former New Hampshire US senator, endorses Clinton. (Boston Globe)
Elizabeth Warren, who was in New Hampshire over the weekend campaigning for Clinton, is putting a progressive marker down and promising to watchdog a potential Clinton administration to make sure she makes good on promises to the party’s left flank. (Boston Herald)
The results tomorrow night from Rochester, New Hampshire, could be an early bellwether of how the state — and the entire presidential race — will go. (Boston Globe)
Donald Trump can’t sleep and is constantly seeking assurance from a tight band of aides led by his son-in-law, according to a stunning inside look at the final month of his campaign. (New York Times)
Hubie Jones, a veteran civil rights and education leader, endorses Question 2, which would raise the cap on charter schools. (CommonWealth) So does former Springfield mayor Robert Markel. (CommonWealth) Question 2 gets The New York Times treatment on Sunday, with a story framing the vote as a referendum on charter schools that will reverberate nationally.
Surprisingly, a veterinarian group is opposed to Question 3 , which deals with the size of cages for farm animals. (CommonWealth)
Robert Torres and Eric Leslie are using technology to get out the vote in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. (CommonWealth)
Here’s a rundown of the initiatives in the five states including Massachusetts where voters are deciding whether to legalize marijuana use. (U.S. News & World Report)
Weather has a very real impact on voter turnout so U.S. News & World Report runs a national weather map that shows the only battleground state with the potential for heavy rains is Ohio, though part of Michigan, which is suddenly more in play, has some rainy areas.
Dementia does not rob people of the right — or the strong urge — to cast a ballot, STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports.
As the holiday season moves into high gear, scores of counterfeit retail apps for iPhones, many originating in China, are popping up in the normally secure Apple App store. (New York Times)
A developer has temporarily withdrawn plans to renovate a warehouse in North Quincy to turn it into a FedEx ground distribution center after city planning officials raised concerns over the need to privately fund road improvements to handle the traffic. (Patriot Ledger)
While the changing of the clocks triggers the biannual debate over Daylight Savings Times, there is an even more radical movement calling for elimination of global time zones, saying they were developed to accommodate the railroad era and have no place in the time of the internet. (New York Times)
The Gloucester Education Foundation raises $150,000 for city’s schools at gala. (Gloucester Times)
Steward Health Care says it will keep the satellite emergency room it operates at the former Quincy Medical Center open at least through next year. The for-profit company had planned to close the ER at the end of this year if it failed to draw enough patients. (Patriot Ledger)
Philadelphia’s transit strike ends. (Governing)
Edward M. Murphy says the US government is robbing fusion reactors of funding at places like MIT to pay for the country’s share of the tab for an international facility in southern France. (CommonWealth)
The Ipswich River is flowing again after nearly drying up during the summer drought. (Salem News)
The Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, a board representing all the Cape towns, has asked Gov. Charlie Baker to push for quicker shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, currently scheduled to go offline in 2019. (Cape Cod Times)
Rhode Island and the community of Tiverton vote tomorrow on a measure that would allow the construction of a casino on the Massachusetts border. The goal is to keep gamblers and their money flowing south even as Massachusetts ramps up its casino industry. (Boston Globe)
Defendants in Massachusetts who can’t come up with payments for court fines are serving time in jail to work off the debt, even for crimes that would not ordinarily bring jail time. (Boston Globe)
A woman who has skipped out on a New York court order to pay $1 million to victims of her shady immigration assistance business there is in Boston working at her daughter’s immigration-focused law office. (Boston Globe)
MassLive has video of Springfield Detective Gregg Bigda threatening to kill and plant drug evidence on teens.
Constables will have to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks in Boston after a constable allegedly shot two Boston police officers last month. (Boston Globe)
Christopher Lydon, veteran Boston newspaper reporter, television news anchor, radio host — and inventor of the podcast. (The Guardian)
Apple News is generating significant traffic for some news organizations. (Nieman Journalism Lab)
Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as US attorney general, who was at the center of the storm of many of the controversial episodes of the Clinton administration, died early Monday from complications due to Parkinson’s disease. She was 78. (New York Times)