A month after recommending against the prosecution of Hillary Clinton, FBI director James Comey informed congressional Republicans Friday that he is reopening the investigation, which had seemed over and done with.
He noted 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 our investigation."
Bizarrely, the evidence that has breathed new life into this investigation were recovered from devices seized as part of the investigation of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. The estranged husband of Clinton's deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin, is facing a federal probe over allegations that he sent sexually explicit messages to a minor girl.
The public has no access to these new emails. It's too soon to say whether they contain classified or top-level classified information, or whether they represent emails that Clinton failed to turn over in the first place. But it would be surprising for Comey to throw such a bombshell into the election without having already received some indication that the newly discovered emails contain something pointedly relevant to deciding whether Clinton or her staff committed crimes.
It would be an amazing turn of events if Weiner's infamous lack of online self control led authorities to the evidence that sinks Clinton.
Either way, the reopening of the investigation serves as a reminder of why the presidential race is so close in the first place. Clinton's campaign has constantly cited Comey's last major public appearance as evidence of her legal clean bill of health, but in fact it was his speech in which he recommended against charges that sent her campaign into a two-month tailspin.
It was then, just before July 4 and again when the FBI's report was released before Labor Day, that voters got their opportunity to price in the facts about Clinton. That she is a dishonest person; that she almost certainly played dumb and lied to the FBI about her understanding of classified material; that her team probably destroyed pertinent emails on purpose; and of course that she negligently handled classified information, despite being given a position of public trust, all in an effort to circumvent government transparency laws.
Donald Trump's campaign seems jubilant, but this may not turn out that well for him. First of all, voters already know this side of Clinton's character and it's probably priced in already. Second, it's likely the FBI won't resolve the matter until after next month's election.
Perhaps it will come to nothing. Perhaps it will provide a boost to Tim Kaine's presidential ambitions.
The new revelation suggests the FBI thinks it may have solid evidence against someone in the Clinton camp, and is a reminder of how Clinton's arrogant, above-the-rules behavior in Obama's Cabinet will be the character of any administration she runs.
Her White House, unlike Obama's or George W. Bush's, would be consumed with investigations and scandal from day one. And she would have no one to blame for this but herself.