Federal agents are preparing to scour roughly 650,000 emails contained on the
The review will take weeks at a minimum to determine whether those messages are work-related emails between Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide and the estranged wife of Mr. Weiner, and State Department officials; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe, which FBI officials call “Midyear.”
The FBI has had to await a court order to begin reviewing the emails, because they were uncovered in an
Meanwhile, FBI Director James Comey’s surprise disclosure Friday, less than two weeks before the election, that investigators were pursuing the potential new evidence lays bare tensions that have built for months inside the bureau and the Justice Department over how to investigate someone who could soon be elected president.
The continuing work means that if Mrs. Clinton wins the White House, she will likely do so amid at least one ongoing investigation into her inner circle being handled by law-enforcement officials who are deeply divided over how to manage such cases.
The latest development began in early October when New York-based FBI officials notified Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s second-in-command, that while investigating Mr. Weiner for possibly sending sexually charged messages to a minor, they had recovered a laptop with 650,000 emails. Many, they said, were from the accounts of Ms. Abedin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Those emails stretched back years, these people said, and were on a laptop that both Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin used and that hadn’t previously come up in the Clinton email probe. Ms. Abedin said in late August that the couple were separating.
The FBI had searched the computer while looking for child pornography, people familiar with the matter said, but the warrant they used didn’t give them authority to search for matters related to Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement at the State Department. Mr. Weiner has denied sending explicit or indecent messages to the teenager.
In their initial review of the laptop, the metadata showed many messages, apparently in the thousands, that were either sent to or from the private email server at Mrs. Clinton’s home that had been the focus of so much investigative effort for the FBI. Senior FBI officials decided to let the Weiner investigators proceed with a closer examination of the metadata on the computer, and report back to them.
At a meeting early last week of senior Justice Department and FBI officials, a member of the department’s senior national-security staff asked for an update on the Weiner laptop, the people familiar with the matter said. At that point, officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant, these people said.
Mr. McCabe then instructed the email investigators to talk to the Weiner investigators and see whether the laptop’s contents could be relevant to the Clinton email probe, these people said. After the investigators spoke, the agents agreed it was potentially relevant.
Mr. Comey was given an update, decided to go forward with the case
The back-and-forth reflects how the bureau is probing several matters related, directly or indirectly, to Mrs. Clinton...