By Mark Hosenball and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON/FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A top aide to Hillary Clinton urged the FBI on Tuesday to disclose what it knows about any ties between Donald Trump and Russia, accusing the agency of unfairly publicizing its inquiry into Clinton’s email practices while staying quiet about the Republican presidential candidate.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a preliminary inquiry in recent months into allegations that Trump or his associates might have had questionable dealings with Russian people or businesses, but found no evidence to warrant opening a full investigation, according to sources familiar with the matter. The agency has not publicly discussed the probe.
A week before Election Day, the Clinton campaign was trying to contain damage from the announcement by FBI Director James Comey on Friday that his agency was looking into newly discovered emails that might relate to Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state.
Clinton has voiced confidence the FBI will not find anything problematic.
She campaigned on Tuesday in the battleground state of Florida, where she was joined in Dade City by former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Trump had mocked for gaining weight. Chants of “Lock her up!” from dozens of Trump supporters gathered nearby could be faintly heard while Clinton spoke.
In Ft. Lauderdale, a young man who yelled, “She’s a liar” was escorted out of the rally. Several other protesters removed during the course of her speech.
“I am sick and tired of the negative, dark, divisive, dangerous vision and behavior from people who support Donald Trump,” Clinton said as another protester was removed from the rally.
Trump and other Republicans have seized on Comey’s announcement, which did not indicate any wrongdoing by Clinton, to ratchet up criticism of the Democratic candidate. She leads in most opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Trump urged people on Tuesday who voted early for his Democratic rival to cancel their ballots and switch to him.
“This is a message for any Democratic voters who have already cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton and who are having a bad case of buyer’s remorse, in other words you want to change your vote,” Trump told a Wisconsin rally.
“So if you live here or in Michigan or Pennsylvania or Minnesota, you can change your vote to Donald Trump.”
Several states, including those cited by Trump, have a process to allow voters who cast early ballots to change their votes, either by submitting new ballots or showing up at their polling place on Election Day.
‘CONNECTIONS TO THE RUSSIANS’
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook questioned why the FBI director had not released any information about the agency’s Russia inquiries.
“If you’re in the business of releasing information about investigations on presidential candidates, release everything you have on Donald Trump. Release the information on his connections to the Russians,” Mook said on CNN.
The FBI inquiry reviewed allegations that Trump or his associates might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or engaged in contacts or commerce with people in Russia who are subject to U.S. or international financial sanctions.
The U.S. government has blamed Russia for cyber attacks on Democratic Party organizations. Democrats criticize Trump for taking what they say is a pro-Russia foreign policy stance.
Russia’s possible role in the campaign again came into focus when online magazine Slate said a group of computer scientists had been alarmed by records showing thousands of apparent connection attempts between an email server operated on behalf of the Trump Organization and computers inside a Russian company, Alfa Bank in Moscow.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the server, which had been used to send out hotel marketing material, had been dormant for years.
Prominent U.S. cyber security company FireEye said it had been hired by Alfa Bank to investigate the records and had been granted access to the bank’s systems in Moscow to look for evidence of any relationship with Trump’s company or any signs of hacking or infection. FireEye said so far it had found no emails being sent back and forth or any other link.
CLINTON POLL LEAD
Opinion polls showed Clinton’s lead has narrowed slightly since early last week but it was too early to say whether the email controversy was hurting her.
Clinton led businessman Trump in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters released on Monday, by 44 percent to 39 percent. Clinton, hoping to be the first woman elected president, strengthened her lead over Trump in polls after the release last month of a 2005 video in which the Republican bragged in vulgar terms about groping women.
But in a dramatic twist, Comey told Congress in a letter on Friday that the FBI was reviewing the newly discovered emails.
Comey had announced in July that the FBI had completed a probe into the email practices, concluding there were no grounds to bring any charges.
Clinton’s team has been pressing the FBI to provide details on the new trove of emails, which Comey said may or may not be significant in the case.
Little is publicly known yet about the emails, other than that they were found during an unrelated probe into former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Comey’s letter has provided Republicans with fresh fodder for attack in the waning days of the campaign. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that a Clinton presidency would bog down in “scandal baggage.”
Congressional Republicans, who had been concerned Trump risked damaging their majorities in the House and Senate, were also encouraged by his recent statements on efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. A campaign aide said if Trump wins, he would ask Congress to begin working on legislation to repeal the law before the Jan. 20 inauguration.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu, John Walcott and Joseph Menn; Writing by Alistair Bell and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Nick Macfie)