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Inside Hillary Clinton Email Probe: How the FBI Could Go Through 650K Emails Before Election Day

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Andrew Harnik/AP

With Election Day looming just eight days away, the FBI is facing intense pressure to resolve its renewed probe into Hillary Clinton‘s emails before Americans vote for their next president.

It remains unclear whether federal agents will be able to meet that deadline, but a federal law enforcement official told The New York Times “the process has begun.”

Federal agents have obtained a warrant to begin reviewing the reported 650,000 emails that were discovered on a laptop used by top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and belonging to her estranged husband, ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner.

A federal judge gave the FBI approval to search Abedin’s emails late Sunday, two days after FBI Director James Comey made his bombshell announcement about the renewed investigation.

NBC News’ Pete Williams reported that the email review is now a “top priority” for the FBI and while it could take weeks, officials say there is “some chance it could be over quickly.”

Here’s how the process will work, according to Williams:

  • Agents will narrow down the emails to examine only those dating from Clinton’s time as secretary of state.
  • They’ll weed out any emails that are not related to government business.
  • Agents will use automated software to scour the remaining emails for duplicates previously reviewed in the FBI’s initial investigation into Clinton’s private email server — which was closed in July with no charges being filed.
  • After that, any remaining emails will be reviewed for classified information.

Officials say that if the probe goes quickly and no classified information is discovered, the FBI could comment on that outcome within the next few days, Williams reported.

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In the meantime, Clinton has called on the FBI to come forward immediately with the “full and complete facts” of the investigation, saying Friday, “It is incumbent upon on the FBI to tell us what they’re talking about, because right now your guess is as good as mine, and I don’t think that’s good enough.”

Clinton told supporters at a rally Monday that she felt confident the FBI would ultimately reach the “same conclusion” as it did in its initial investigation, declaring, “There is no case here.” She also questioned the timing of the FBI’s announcement. “I am sure a lot of you may be asking what this new email story is about and why in the world the FBI would decide to jump into an election with no evidence of any wrong doing with just days to go,” she said. “That is a good question.”

Her opponent, Donald Trump, meanwhile, seized on the new development on Friday, moments after news broke of Comey’s announcement.  Trump kicked off his campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, that afternoon by saying, “I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made. This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood. And it is everyone’s hope that it is about to be corrected.”

In a letter sent to six lawmakers on Monday, the Justice Department said it will work closely with the FBI to take “appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible” in the investigation, The Washington Post reported. The brief statement was made on behalf of Comey and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in response to a letter from four Democratic senators who called on law enforcement officials to release more details on the investigation by Monday.

According to the Post, the letter said the Justice Department and the FBI will “dedicate all necessary resources” to the investigation, but provided no further details about the emails and their significance.

So far, voters appear to be unaffected by the FBI’s new probe, according to new polls conducted after Friday’s reveal. Clinton leads Trump 46 percent to 43 percent nationally in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, with 39 percent of voters saying the news will not influence their vote.