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Inside the Clinton Email Search Warrant

Attorneys opened a case to unseal documents related to reopening the FBI probe.

ByABC News
December 20, 2016, 9:08 PM

— -- The search warrant that authorized the FBI to examine a laptop in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state was released today, and the Clinton camp says it shows that Director James Comey's "intrusion" into the election was "utterly unjustified."

Clinton had been dogged by the issue of her private email server throughout the campaign and Comey dealt a surprise blow when he said that the FBI was looking into the emails found on former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner's computer just days before the election.

According to the warrant and supporting documents, investigators said they found thousands of emails belonging to top Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin on the computer belonging to her estranged husband, Weiner. Both of their names are redacted.

The laptop's hard drive, according to sources, was being examined in unrelated investigations into alleged sexting by Weiner.

When discovered, the FBI believed the emails were "outside the scope" of their investigation into Weiner, and did not look at them beyond the subject line and e-mail address information, according to the newly released documents.

According to the affidavit, the FBI had already reviewed more than 30,000 emails and found 2,115 contained classified information, including 22 with Top Secret information.

Analysis of those emails "revealed more than 4,000 work-related emails between [redacted] and Clinton from 2009 and 2013." The redaction is believed to refer to Abedin.

According to the affidavit, the FBI’s prior investigation found that among the 4,000, some 27 email chains containing classified information "have been transmitted through [redacted] and/or [redacted] accounts," which again are believed to be between Abedin and Clinton.

"Because it has been determined by relevant original classification authorities that many emails were exchanged between [redacted] and/or [redacted] accounts and Clinton that contained classified information, there is also probable cause to believe that the correspondence between them located on Subject Laptop contains classified information," the affidavit says.

The FBI search of the laptop came during the final days of the presidential election, months after Comey announced that the bureau had effectively closed its investigation.

E. Randol Schoenberg, a Los Angeles attorney who petitioned to have the documents unsealed, said in a statement to ABC News he was "appalled."

"I see nothing at all in the search warrant application that would give rise to probable cause, nothing that would make anyone suspect that there was anything on the laptop beyond what the FBI had already searched and determined not to be evidence of a crime, nothing to suggest that there would be anything other than routine correspondence between Secretary Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin," he said.

On Oct. 28, Comey disclosed to Congress that the FBI would be looking at the newly discovered emails, but it remains unclear when the emails were discovered and how long it took for that information to be communicated to Comey. The warrant was approved two days later.

Just two days before the election, Comey issued a second letter to Congress, stating, "based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton."

It's unclear what impact Comey's letters had on the election, but Clinton told top donors that she thought Comey's letter to Congress was a turning point in the contest between her and now President-elect Donald Trump.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted today that "the unsealed filings regarding Huma's emails reveals Comey's intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified as we suspected at time."

Stephen Saltzburg, George Washington University Law Professor, said that Comey didn't need to "run the risk" of making Clinton look even worse right before the election -- a move that broke with FBI protocol about commenting on ongoing investigations.

"They [FBI] had to assure themselves that there was no classified information at risk on a computer that they didn’t have. They had no obligation, however, to go public about what they were doing," he said.

Officials at both the FBI and the Department of Justice declined to comment to ABC News.

Mike Levine, Liz Kreutz and Meghan Keneally contributed to this story.

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