WASHINGTON (CN) - Defying longstanding prosecutorial tradition, the Republican FBI director appointed by President Obama tossed a smoke cannister into the race for president Friday with a letter raising innuendo but no conclusions about the Democratic candidate's email practices.
FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Republican members of Congress with copies to Democratic members on Friday, saying his agency has come across additional emails that it needs to investigate.
The letter, which immediately prompted a chorus of huzzahs from beleaguered Republican candidates, fanned the partisan flames with 11 days to go before national elections in November. It also violated a longstanding tradition in prosecutorial ranks to avoid any announcements with political ramifications within two months of an election.
While the letter makes no conclusions, it states that the FBI has come across an additional trove of emails on computer belonging to Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, one of Clinton's closest aides.
Weiner has been under a federal investigation for the last month after a British tabloid reported that the former New York congressman had sent sexually violent messages to a 15-year-old girl. A previous sexting scandal caused Weiner's political downfall and estrangement from Abedin, who announced a separation in August.
Comey's letter to congressional representatives raises the specter of the FBI reopening the criminal investigation involving Clinton's private email server just days before the Nov. 8 election.
"Comey wrote a very strange letter to Congress that was long on innuendo and short on facts," wrote John Podesta, Clinton's campaign director, in an email to supporters on Saturday. "He said that in a completely separate investigation, the FBI had found some emails that may or may not be related to Hillary, and indeed may or may not be significant at all."
"It's being reported that Comey sent this letter over the objections of Department of Justice officials who told him that it was inconsistent with longstanding policy of both Democratic and Republican administrations not to take action that might impact an election," said Podesta. "It's an unprecedented intrusion into a close presidential election with 10 days until Election Day."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and others seized on the vague and general letter to advance their argument that Clinton has acted outside the law. The letter also gave House Speaker Paul Ryan a reason to renew his call for Clinton to be denied national-security briefings. Ryan has been attacked by Trump for insufficient support.
Podesta slammed the Republican FBI director's move. "By being vague and obfuscating, Comey opened the door to conspiracy theories, Republican attacks against Hillary, and a surge of fundraising for Trump and his team," he said.
Beyond casting a cloud around Clinton, Comey's letter connects the Democrat's campaign to one of the seamier political scandals in a year where they abound.
The FBI apparently seized computer devices that belonged to Abedin and Weiner after the former congressman was reported to have used the name "T Dog" in sexting rape fantasies and shirtless selfies to a 15-year-old North Carolina girl. Previously, Weiner sexted under the pseudonym "Carlos Danger."
He also is alleged to have asked the teen to get on Skype to undress and masturbate. Weiner could face 15 to 30 years in prison if found he's ultimately found guilty of charges of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Word that Comey had decided to tie that investigation into the defunct investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server was first made public by a Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who tweeted Friday morning that Comey told him "the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation."
Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight Committee, which has closely looked into Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.
Shortly after Chaffetz's tweet, NBC News reporter Frank Thorp posted the letter Comey has sent to lawmakers informing them the investigation had in fact been reopened.
"In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation," the letter reads. "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 the investigation."
The letter goes on to say that there is no timeline for when the renewed inquiry will wrap up or if the new material is even significant to the case.
Comey announced in July that, based on the FBI's investigation of the matter, he believed Clinton should not face criminal charges for using a private email account while serving as secretary of state.
However, he went on to call her actions "extremely careless."
Republicans relished the news shortly after it broke Friday afternoon.
"Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame," House Speaker Ryan said in a statement. "She was entrusted with some of our nation's most important secrets and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information.
"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 continued. "I renew my call for the director of national intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved."
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.
Trump was addressing a roaring crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire, shortly after news broke of the FBI activity. "Perhaps finally justice will be served," he said.
Trump added that "Clinton's corruption is on a scale we have never seen before" and said that "we must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office."