SARASOTA, FLORIDA — Donald Trump did not mention FBI director James Comey by name this morning in Sarasota, Florida — the first of five scheduled rallies during his last day on the campaign trail — nor did he spend much time discussing Sunday's letter saying that a search found nothing illicit in the latest batch of Hillary Clinton's emails. "Hillary Clinton is being protected by a totally rigged system," Trump told the crowd. But they didn't need much convincing.
Many in attendance clearly believed that this news was merely evidence of the Clintons' vast influence and power and that the ramifications on Tuesday's elections would be minimal. "I think it came too late," said Michael, who also attended Trump's rally here last year with his wife Diane. "I think it's an awful decision, but it came too late to decide anything. Everybody knows who she is. Not gonna change anything. She is who she is." Kim, an attorney originally from Ohio clutching a Women for Trump sign, said Comey "caved."
Tom and Denise Meyer worked for the federal government in Kentucky — they didn't want to say in what capacity — before retiring to Sarasota, and they also were neither surprised nor concerned. "A leopard doesn't change its spots," Tom said. "We're used to it. She's teflon."
"Hillary's getting away with all this," added Denise. "If she'd worked where we worked, we'd have lost our jobs. There's no repercussions, no accountability."
Jennifer Palms of Coral Beach, who was carrying two large signs — one reading "Hillary WW3" and the other "Read Wikileaks" — thought the entire Comey affair was effectively "confirmation bias" that told people what they wanted to hear, regardless of which candidate they're supporting.
"In some people's minds, it confirms what they already felt, that there's corruption at the highest echelons of our government and our law enforcement community," she said. "And people think he was not allowed to carry out his job or was threatened or flipped or bribed or told to stand down. Which makes people very angry and therefore it may help Trump. I also read on the internet that it lit a fire under Hillary and brought more enthusiasm. Since I'm pro-Trump, I'm going to look for something that makes me feel good."
And Michele Blethen, a rehab therapist from Manatee County who lost her full-time job this fall due to what she believes is fallout from Obamacare, also didn't seem surprised or discouraged. "I don't feel it will change anything, personally," she said while walking from the rally to her car. "I fully believe she's 100% guilty and I feel there are many others who believe what I believe."
In Raleigh, North Carolina, thousands flowed into a state fairgrounds arena on a breezy day to see Trump make his final stop in the battleground state.
No one believed Clinton’s email issue was over, and many said they suspected a conspiracy between the Clintons and Comey — a former United States Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, a Republican — or that Comey had somehow been threatened by the Clintons.
Mark Barnes, from Raleigh, echoed many Republicans and Trump supporters calling for further investigation into Clinton. “This single little piece kind of got brushed aside. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t other issues that should be looked into," he said, adding, though, “I’m not sure I have high confidence in either the Justice Department or the FBI."
“He either got paid off or threatened," Jean Wagner, from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, said. "There is no way they could have reviewed 650,000 emails in eight days, and there’s got to be something there or he would’ve never done it.”
Kim Cummings, from Zebulon, NC, echoed that conspiracy theory. “I think it’s awfully odd that they were able to go through 650,000 emails in 10 days. And 55,000 emails it took them a year? If she didn’t do anything wrong, I find that difficult to believe."
"I think," she said, "there’s something a little fishy going on.”
Steve Kandell is the features director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Steve Kandell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ali Watkins is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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