Monday Morning Briefing: You want Halloween thrills? Look no further than the election

October 31, 2016

Let’s start with what we know.

Federal investigators have a warrant to review newly discovered emails that could be related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey wants to know if any of these emails contained classified information. He said this in a letter to Congress disclosed Friday afternoon, 11 days before the election.

Digits of the day: 650,000

Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop used by former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close aide of Clinton’s, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The emails were discovered as part of an investigation into whether or not Weiner solicited sex from a 15-year-old girl over Twitter. The investigation into the emails will take several weeks, well beyond the Nov. 8 election.

The Democrats and the Clinton campaign were mad — hopping mad. Most recently, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada had this to say to Comey:

“Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”

Donald Trump and the Republicans? Well, they proclaimed outrage throughout the weekend.

What don’t we know?

A lot, actually. But let’s start with why now? Why 11 days before the election? It’s more complicated than that. The FBI seized Anthony Weiner’s laptop, iPhone and iPad on Oct. 3, as part of the sexting probe, the New York Times reported. While searching the laptop, they discovered a bunch of emails sent between Abedin and Clinton aides. But in order to search them, they needed a court order.

It was at this point that Comey once again broke with FBI tradition. It was fairly unusual when James Comey held a press conference in July, during which he said the FBI would not recommend charges be brought against Clinton. But last Friday, he overruled Justice Department officials who believed that sending his letter to Congress would create the impression of partisan bias on the part of the agency. But Comey believed that if he wasn’t completely transparent with Congress, he would have looked even more partisan. His final decision ended up making everyone unhappy, except maybe Donald Trump.

What’s in the emails? We don’t know and we won’t know for weeks. It’s expected that some of the emails are duplicates of ones that have already been reviewed.

How will it affect the election? Ah, the $64,000 question. Before the news broke, Clinton was already losing ground in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina. It will take a few days for the polling to reflect this latest bombshell. Having said that, she could lose all four states and still win the election if she holds on to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But she would limp into office a damaged candidate, making it more difficult to push through her agenda. The impact on down-ballot races is also unclear. If the latest news convinces soft Clinton supporters to stay home on Election Day, it would hurt the Democrats chances of winning back the Senate.

Fivethirtyeight’s “polls-only” forecast has her probability of winning dipping to 79 percent, her lowest level since Oct. 6. She peaked at 87 percent on Oct. 17, shortly before the third debate. Betting markets are at an 87 percent probability of a Clinton victory, down four points from her peak a week ago.

Rolls of toilet paper depicting Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are pictured at It's Sugar candy shop in Pasadena, California U.S., October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni - RTX2R4Y1

Toilet paper depicting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the It’Sugar candy shop in Pasadena, Calif., Oct. 30, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Around the country

  • American women are ending pregnancies with medication almost as often as with surgery, marking a turning point for abortion in the United States.
  • Although the sale of marijuana is a federal crime, the number of U.S. banks working with pot businesses, now sanctioned in many states, is growing, up 45 percent in the last year alone. Still, marijuana merchants say there are not nearly enough banks willing to take their cash. So many dispensaries resort to stashing cash in storage units, back offices and armored vans.
  • Starting pitcher Jon Lester delivered for the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the World Series, holding the Cleveland Indians to two runs. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman pitched two-and-two-thirds innings to seal the 3-2 victory, sending the series back to Cleveland. The Tribe leads the series three games to two.

Around Wall Street

  • General Electric, banking on a recovery in oil prices, plans to merge its oil and gas business with No. 3 oilfield services provider Baker Hughes.
  • New York’s financial regulator had sights set on becoming a global hub for innovations like bitcoin when it adopted trailblazing virtual currency rules last year. But the state lost that momentum when the agency’s chief left, putting a licensing process in limbo and allowing rivals to catch up.

Around the world

  • U.S.-backed Iraqi troops are preparing to move on the eastern bank of the Tigris River that divides Mosul. Pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias joined the fighting over the weekend, aiming to cut the route between Mosul and Raqqa, Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria.
  • Venezuela’s unpopular socialist leader Nicolas Maduro shook hands with opposition leaders at Vatican-convened talks, but his wary foes threatened to boycott further meetings if some demands were not quickly met.
  • Thailand is making preparations for Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the throne on Dec. 1, following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej earlier this month.

 

Today’s reason to live

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