FBI Recommends No Criminal Charges in Clinton Email Probe

FBI Director James Comey said on July 5 that Hillary Clinton did send and receive classified emails during her time as secretary of state, but shouldn’t be charged with criminal misconduct. (Reuters)

FBI Director James B. Comey said Tuesday that his agency will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state but called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling sensitive material.

The announcement means that Clinton will not have to fear criminal, legal liability as her campaign moves forward, though Comey leveled sharp criticism at the past email practices of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and called into question many of the defenses she has raised in recent weeks.

The FBI director said those who acted as Clinton and her staffers did were “often subject to security or administrative sanctions,” though in comparing her case with similar investigations in the past, the bureau did not find any of the aggravating factors that typically lead to the filing of criminal charges.

[Full transcript of Comey’s statement]

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said. He said that while the ultimate decision would be left up to the Justice Department, the FBI was expressing its view “that no charges are appropriate in this case.”

During a news conference July 5, FBI Director James Comey outlined the complex investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of email while secretary of state. (Reuters)

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia, whose prosecutors are involved in the case, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman said she was preparing a possible response.

Hillary for America campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement: “We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate. As the Secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”

The announcement — which came only about 72 hours after FBI agents interviewed Clinton, and only about a week after former president Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch aboard her plane — immediately sparked criticism that the outcome of the high-profile probe was a foregone conclusion, influenced heavily by political considerations.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted, “The system is rigged,” and asserted that former general and CIA director David H. Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, “got in trouble for far less.” Petraeus was accused of turning over highly classified information to a woman with whom he was having an affair, and agents believe he lied to the FBI, though he was never charged with that particular crime.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that Comey’s announcement “defies explanation.”

“No one should be above the law. But based upon the director’s own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law,” Ryan said. “Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”

Comey did not take questions, though he acknowledged in his statement that his recommendation would create “intense public debate” and defended the bureau’s work as apolitical.

Clinton has come under fire for using a private email address during her time as secretary of state. The emails are being screened and released in batches. Here are some things we’ve learned from them.

Top-secret information in e-mails Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has previously stated that classified information never traveled across her private server. However, the State Department has acknowledged that “top secret” information was in seven email chains sent or received by her. Richard Drew/AP

“I know there were many opinions expressed by people who were not part of the investigation — including people in government — but none of that mattered to us,” Comey said. “Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did our investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way.”

While he recommended no criminal charges, Comey nevertheless systematically dismantled the public explanations Clinton has offered to reassure the public about her email system for the past 15 months.

When it was first revealed that Clinton used a personal email account during her years in office, Clinton first said that she had never sent or received classified material through the account. She later amended those statements to say that her emails contained no information that was clearly marked as classified. Her supporters also insisted that a finding of sensitive material by the State Department and other government agencies was retroactive, a judgment by bureaucrats after the fact to “upgrade” material to a classified level.

Comey dismissed each of those explanations. He said that a careful analysis by officials from multiple agencies found there was classified material and that in 110 emails, the information was sensitive enough to be classified at the time it was sent, not just after the fact. Seven email chains included information that was properly classified as “top secret” dealing with “special access programs,” the very highest level of classification. He confirmed that Clinton authored some of the most concerning emails and that the conversations were sufficiently sensitive that a person in her job should have known they contained classified material.

“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,” Comey said. He said that while only a very small number were properly marked as classified, “even if information is not marked classified in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”

Clinton has also always insisted that she submitted to the State Department all of her work-related correspondence from her time as secretary. Comey said the FBI had recovered thousands of work-related emails that had not been turned over, though he added that investigators found no evidence of misconduct in their deletion.

Clinton assured the public that there was no evidence her server or devices had been hacked. Comey agreed there was no such evidence but concluded that the lack of a clear intrusion should give no confidence that the system had not been breached. He specifically noted Clinton’s practice of sending and receiving emails while traveling in foreign countries with sophisticated surveillance technology. He also said that multiple people with whom Clinton regularly communicated on the system are known to have been hacked and that the private setup was not protected by government security staff assigned to protect government email. “Given that combination of factors,” he said, “we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

Comey also revealed new details about the system’s setup, undermining Clinton’s promise that she had already been fully transparent about her system. For instance, Clinton and her aides have routinely referred to the server that had been maintained in her home. Comey for the first time revealed that Clinton had used multiple servers during her time in office.

It is unclear who will make the ultimate decision not to charge Clinton. On Friday, Lynch announced that she would accept recommendations from career prosecutors and FBI agents leading the probe — a decision that she said had been made before her impromptu, social meeting with Bill Clinton but one that was surely meant to quiet criticism about the independence of the probe. – Via WashingtonPost





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