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FBI Announcement On Renewed Clinton Investigation Gives Trump New Ammunition

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Fair to say, this is not how Hillary Clinton thought she'd be spending the last week before Election Day. She's been forced to defend herself against more attacks on her trustworthiness because of the FBI's decision to review new information that could be related to Clinton's use of a private email server. Clinton, yesterday, said the FBI has broken the agency protocol.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

HILLARY CLINTON: It's pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, the revelation has given Donald Trump new ammunition in the closing week of the campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

DONALD TRUMP: The investigation is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it's everybody's hope that justice, at last, can be delivered.

MARTIN: We're joined now by NPR's Mara Liasson to talk about the implications of all this.

Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: You've been out on the trail with the Clinton campaign this weekend. Did you see any evidence that they're changing their message, or their travel plans for that matter, for the remaining days of the campaign?

LIASSON: No, I didn't. But they are pushing back very hard against Comey. They want to ratchet up the pressure so the FBI director comes out and says exactly what he is talking about. And as you said, this is not the way they wanted to end the campaign. Until Friday, they were busy running up the score, trying to win big to repudiate Trumpism, help down-ballot Democrats. She wanted to end with a more positive, uplifting message. Now the spotlight is back on Hillary Clinton's problems. And we're waiting for polls to see what the damage is. We know the ABC-Washington Post tracking poll today says Clinton has just a 1-point lead now. But it's not clear if that tightening is because of the email developments.

MARTIN: You were in Florida talking with Clinton supporters at a rally. What did they say about this FBI revelation? Is it something they're worried about?

LIASSON: Yes. I was at a get-out-the-vote rally in Daytona. The scene was very typical of this campaign. As Clinton supporters lined up, a flatbed truck full of Trump supporters and a person dressed in prison stripes and a Hillary Clinton mask drove back and forth. I talked to Warren Shingle who, like the Clinton campaign itself, is stunned by the latest bombshell.

WARREN SHINGLE: I just think that Director Comey ought to add some flesh to the letter that he submitted. He ought to explain what it is he wants. There's no clarity to the issue. I don't understand. It just throws dust into the whole process.

LIASSON: I also talked to John Denning. He's already voted, but he's worried this will affect other voters.

JOHN DENNING: I'm afraid that people won't go out and vote. I think it's going to deter people from voting - that they're not happy with either candidate and they stay home.

LIASSON: And I actually found an undecided voter.

MARTIN: Ha.

LIASSON: It's hard to believe there's anyone trying to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at this point. But Marcus Daniel Jones - he's 18 years old - he is voting for the first time. He said he'd gone to a Trump rally in Pensacola. Now he was in Daytona to see Hillary Clinton for the first time. And here's what he said.

MARCUS DANIEL JONES: It makes me feel less good about Hillary, like, becoming president. It doesn't, like, seem that she could be trusted.

LIASSON: So there you have it. Now, 17 million people have already voted, and the early voting data suggests the Clinton campaign has done its work, but there's still a week to go. And this latest move by the FBI director makes Hillary Clinton's campaign and her supporters very nervous.

MARTIN: I imagine this is somewhat of a relief to the Donald Trump campaign. It gives him a new thing to talk about, a new line of attack.

LIASSON: No doubt. It's a new lease on life in a race that his own campaign aides had admitted he was losing, new ammunition for his argument about corrupt Hillary Clinton. It does energize his base, maybe helps him suppress or turn off some potential Hillary Clinton supporters. Donald Trump knows that anytime you have Hillary Clinton emails, the FBI and Anthony Weiner in one sentence, it's a bad day for Hillary Clinton. And for down-ballot Republican candidates, this helps them argue that they would be a check and balance against a President Clinton. You're seeing more of those check-and-balance ads from Republican candidates. It's a tacit admission that she will be the president. And I've talked to both Democrats and Republicans who believe the Comey letter may have the biggest effect on the down-ballot races.

MARTIN: Before I let you go, Mara, I mean, you brought up Anthony Weiner. I mean, it is just bizarre that, in the final days, Hillary Clinton is being linked to Anthony Weiner and the sex scandal that he was in.

LIASSON: Well, this really is "Back To The Future." The campaign started with the emails. It's ending with the emails. All the threads of the Clintons' 30-year political story seem to be coming together - the penchant for secrecy that led her to choose a private server; her penchant for defensiveness; her tone deafness and the way she initially dealt with this, which only exacerbated her image as dishonest and untrustworthy; and then the sex scandals that always seemed to dog the Clintons and the ongoing investigations that often end up turning something else. So it's all there, the messy drama that seems to always be part of the Clintons' story.

MARTIN: Mara Liasson, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.