FBI director James Comey announced Friday, in a vaguely-worded letter to eight Republican congressional committee chairs, that the Bureau had discovered emails “pertinent” to the investigation into the use of a private email server by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Though Comey did not specify who wrote or received the emails or where they were found, subsequent media reports said that the emails belonged to top Clinton aide Human Abedin, 40, the now-estranged wife of former New York Democratic congressmember Anthony Weiner, who split from Weiner this year over his repeated sexting scandals.
In fact, according to the reports, the emails were located on a computer used by Weiner to send inappropriate text messages to an underage girl.
Sorting out the facts in the rumor-laden story filled with contradictory information has been difficult for both the public and the press. Here’s what you need to know right now.
1. The FBI is Looking Into “Thousands” of Emails, Reports Say
The number of emails somehow belonging to Abedin found on the Weiner computer could number in the “thousands,” according to a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday. The paper reported that the FBI found an astounding 650,000 emails on the laptop computer, “and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state,” the Journal reported.
Whether the emails actually were sent to or from the Clinton server remains undetermined by the Journal investigation — only that they “could have been,” which also implies that they could not have been, as well.
2. Abedin Doesn’t Know how her Emails got on Weiner’s Computer
Abedin testified on June 28 in the lawsuit brought by the right-wing government watchdog group Judicial Watch, and in that sworn testimony she said that “looked for” and handed over to the State Department all of the electronic devices that she believed may have contained her email.
“I looked for all the devices that may have any of my State Department work on it and returned — returned — gave them to my attorneys for them to review for all relevant documents. And gave them devices and paper,” Abedin said in her testimony.
But when she learned that more emails were on her disgraced husband’s laptop computer, she “seemed surprised,” according to a report by CBS News on Sunday.
Her lawyer said on Monday that Abedin did not know the emails were contained on her estranged husband’s laptop.
Abedin in was not a “regular user” of that particular computer, according to a Washington Post story on Saturday.
The Post also reported that Abedin had told friends that she is “unsure” how her emails could have ended up on Weiner’s computer.
3. The FBI Has No Idea What the Emails Contain
Even FBI Director James Comey, who ignited the latest political firestorm when he sent his letter to the congressional Republicans on Friday, has admitted in a leaked internal memo that “We don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails.”
While the Wall Street Journal cited “underlying metadata” that “suggests” some of the Abedin emails “could have been” sent to or from Clinton and her private email server — using vague journalistic language to indicate that their reporters lacked hard information — no one in the FBI has yet viewed any of the emails.
In fact, the FBI requires a search warrant to open any of the emails — a warrant that the Bureau did not obtain until Sunday afternoon.
“We don’t know what this is yet,” a Justice Department source told ABC News, adding that no one in the investigation yet knows if “there is any ‘there’ there.”
4. The FBI has Known About the Emails for “Weeks”
FBI investigators discovered the allegedly massive cache of Abedin emails “weeks ago,” according to a CNN report early Sunday evening. But for reasons that are not yet clear, Comey waited until 11 days before the presidential election to reveal the existence of the emails — while still having no knowledge of what they contain — to congress.
Investigators looking into Weiner’s inappropriate exchanges of sexually oriented messages and images with a 15-year-old girl subpoenaed the former House rep’s computer on September 22. It was soon after that date that the FBI became aware of the alleged Abedin emails, CNN reported.
Abedin, who married Weiner in 2010, announced that she was separating from him in August after the new allegations of his illicit online activties came to light.
In his internal memo to FBI staffers, Comey said that he felt “obligated” to inform congress about the emails, but why he waited until October 28 — or whether his agents even informed him of their existence before that time — he did not say.
5. Abedin Reportedly Used Four Separate Email Accounts, One Shared With Weiner
Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald explained in a report late on Friday how Abedin’s emails may have ended up on the Weiner computer. The Clinton aide, who has worked for the now-Democratic presidential nominee for 21 years, maintained for email accounts, he reported.
One of those accounts was shared with Weiner for use in his political campaigns, of which she was a part.
She also maintained a Yahoo mail account, her official State Department work email account, and an account with the domain clintonemail.com, which was used only for Clinton’s personal business. But Abedin was not aware that the clintonemail.com domain went to her boss’s private home email server.
She sometimes transferred regular, non-classified emails to either her Yahoo account or the clintonemail.com account from her State Department work account in order to print them out at home, allowing Clinton to read email in paper form.
But how any of those emails, much less “thousands” ended up on Weiner’s computer remains a mystery.