Friday 15 December 2017

Vote will decide ‘fate of world’ – Obama

US president hits out at FBI probe into Clinton emails

U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Barney Henderson and Tim Stanley

Barack Obama warned America last night that the "fate of the world" was at risk if Donald Trump was elected president, as he publicly criticised the FBI.

In his strongest intervention yet in the US presidential election, Mr Obama also rebuked James Comey for the decision to announce just days before the election that new emails linked to Hillary Clinton were being investigated.

Mr Obama said the FBI should not "operate on innuendo" in a thinly veiled criticism of Mr Comey's handling of the announcement. "I do think there is a norm that when there are investigations we don't operate on innuendo, we don't operate on incomplete information, we don't operate on leaks," he said. "We operate based on concrete decisions that are made."

In a barnstorming address in North Carolina last night - a state he won twice in his presidential campaigns but which is in the balance for Mrs Clinton - President Obama gave a dire warning of a Trump presidency. "I hate to put pressure on you but the fate of the Republic rests in your hands. The fate of the world is teetering," he told voters in Chapel Hill.

He called Mr Trump, the Republican candidate, "temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief" and said that we "have to stop thinking that his behaviour is normal".


Mr Obama said Mr Trump tolerated racists, threatened the press, "stiffed small businesses" and "bragged about getting away with sexual assault". He added: "If you disrespect women before you're in office, you will disrespect women while you're in office. If you accept the support of Klan members, then you will tolerate that support when you're in office."

Commenting for the first time about the renewed email scandal, Mr Obama defended his former secretary of state after the FBI's announcement that new messages had been found on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Mrs Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, as part of a separate investigation into his alleged sexual texts with an under-age girl.

Mr Obama said that when taking the unusual step of discussing the FBI's decisions, he had "made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don't look like I'm meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments".

Nonetheless, he immediately suggested that Mrs Clinton, the Democrat presidential candidate, was innocent of wrongdoing. "I trust her. I know her. And I wouldn't be supporting her if I didn't have absolute confidence in her integrity and her interest in making sure that young people have a better future," he said.

She had made an "honest mistake" in using a private email server as secretary of state, he said.

Mrs Clinton was also put on the backfoot yesterday over the contents of new emails released by WikiLeaks.

An assistant attorney general allegedly gave Mrs Clinton's campaign chairman a "heads up" on a congressional hearing and the latest development in litigation over her use of a private email server.

"There is a HJC oversight hearing today where the head of our Civil Division will testify," Peter Kadzik, wrote to John Podesta, in May 2015, apparently referring to the House Judiciary Committee. "Likely to get questions on State Department emails."

He also updated Mr Podesta, a friend since their law school days, on a new filing - that "went in last night or will go in this am" in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department that "indicates it will be a while (2016) before the State Department posts the emails".

While Mr Kadzik may have simply been alerting Mr Podesta to public events - the Judiciary Committee held an open hearing that day - the email posted online yesterday may contribute to assertions by Republican lawmakers that Justice Department and FBI officials have been too accommodating of Mrs Clinton during their investigation of the private email server she used as secretary of state.

Brian Fallon, a Clinton campaign spokesman who previously worked at the Justice Department, also got tips from contacts there about upcoming releases and court filings, according to previously released messages.

Spokesmen for the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department didn't immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday.

WikiLeaks has posted more than 43,000 purported emails stolen from Mr Podesta's private account, which the Clinton campaign has said was hacked by Russian government agents.

They have declined to confirm the contents of individual documents, saying some may have been altered in an attempt to damage the campaign.

The WikiLeaks email quickly entered the political debate, when Mr Trump said Mr Kadzik - a "close associate of John Podesta," - was "feeding information" to Mrs Clinton's campaign.

Mr Kadzik, in his role as the Justice Department's liaison to Congress, wrote a letter to lawmakers on Monday saying that the department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would work together "and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible" to resolve the revived investigation of Mrs Clinton's emails that FBI Director Comey announced last week.

Meanwhile, more than half of those who plan to tick Mr Trump's name at the ballot box say they will be voting against Mrs Clinton, rather than for the Republican nominee. According to a Pew survey released yesterday, 51pc of those lining up behind Mr Trump are doing so because they have rejected Mrs Clinton, rather than because they support the businessman.

All votes count the same, but the new data is yet another reminder of just how unpopular both presidential nominees are.

The levels of so-called negative voting have no parallels in recent US electoral history, barring the 2004 campaign between then-incumbent George W Bush and John Kerry, when the Iraq War was weighing heavily on voters' minds.

Among prospective Clinton voters, the split is 41pc anti-Trump and 57pc pro-Clinton, meaning the former secretary of state has substantially more affirmative support than Mr Trump. That could bode well for Mrs Clinton, as the candidate who had a higher percentage of "for" votes in the Pew survey has won every election since 2000. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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