The 2016 US election has been influenced by multiple scandals that have changed the voters’ perceptions of the nominees and tipping the final result.
FBI and Clinton’s private email server
On Sunday 6 November 2016, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) cleared Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing.
“Based on our review we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with regard to Secretary Clinton”, FBI director James Comey said in a letter to lawmakers.
Clinton was re-investigated regarding her use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of the State from 2009 to 2013. A total of about 30,000 emails were handed over to the FBI and investigated for breach of conduct.
While the FBI, initially criticised Clinton, they chose not to file criminal charges against her in July 2016. However, the investigation was reopened following the discovery of more emails ten days before Election Day. These emails came from a device belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of one of Clinton’s top aides. Weiner’s devices were being investigated as part of a separate case for sexting a female minor.
Prior to the release of these new emails, Clinton had a comfortable lead over her rival candidate, but the news resulted in a closer race, with the candidates neck-to-neck in many polls.
Trump’s sex scandals
On 8 October 2016, The Washington Post released a video from 2005, which showed Trump having a lewd conversation with Billy Bush, the then co-host of “Access Hollywood”. In the video, Trump revealed how he had failed in an attempt to have sex with a married woman, shortly after he married his current wife, Melania. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said in the video. “You can do anything.” Several women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Trump as a result of the leaked recording. The video led to more than 50 Republican officials retracting their endorsements, or refusing to endorse Trump altogether.
DNC Email Hack and Wikileaks
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been the victim of multiple hacks over the course of the election. Non-profit organisation Wikileaks published about 19,000 emails, and 9,000 attachments from the DNC in July. The emails dated from January up until May 2016. Despite a lone actor operating under the name Guccifer 2.0 bearing responsibility for the cyber attacks, Clinton supporters, as well as several analysts publicly blamed Russia.
In October 2016, Wikileaks published another set of leaked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account. The new set of stolen mails indicated lucrative speeches delivered by Clinton to Wall Street and conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation, among other confidential exchanges.
The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is currently housed in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but had his Internet access temporarily cut off in the days before the US election. The Foreign Ministry of Ecuador released a statement saying: “The government of Ecuador represents the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in certain electoral processes, nor does it favour any particular candidate.”
These email and sex scandals are new and unconventional elements in the US presidential campaigns. Both candidates have been accused of misconduct, so the result may tip either way. This is definitely the first election where both candidates are surrounded by scandal before even setting their foot in office.