WASHINGTON , July 5, 2016 — FBI Director James Comey has announced that he will not recommend that Hillary Clinton be indicted for her use of a private email server and reckless handling of classified documents.
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
The announcement comes days after Attorney General Loretta Lynch came under fire for privately meeting with Bill Clinton.
Comey opened his remarks with the observation that he did not vet his comments with anyone else. He then launched into a litany of all that Clinton had done in violation of the public trust and statute regarding the handling of classified information.
- He condemned Clinton’s actions as “extremely careless,” observing that any reasonable person in her position would have known that an unclassified system was no place to discuss sensitive information.
- The FBI found that Clinton lied when she claimed that she never sent or received classified mail on her server. In fact, a least 110 messages were classified when she handled them, contrary to her explicit claims.
- Clinton claimed that she used her private server for “convenience,” when in fact she had multiple email devices and multiple email servers at the time.
- Clinton claimed that she had deleted only personal email from her server; the FBI found she and her team had marked and deleted email as personal when it was actually work-related. Her lawyers didn’t even read the mail when they sorted it.
- The security on Clinton’s server was not equal even to that offered by Gmail, and while there is no evidence that the system was hacked, the personal nature of her system was readily apparent to anyone who would have cared to know. In addition, she used her unsecured email system even when traveling in technically sophisticated foreign countries whose governments are known to have monitored messages of some of Clinton’s email correspondents.
Comey’s announcement came after FBI agents privately interviewed Clinton for more than three hours over over the holiday weekend.
Clinton and her campaign have consistently downplayed the FBI investigation, even calling it a “security review,” and as recently as June 3 said there was “absolutely no possibility” she’d be indicted. Her crystal ball on that score was accurate.
According to Comey:
“Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.”
Weeks ago, a scathing State Department Inspector General report directly countered Clinton’s long-running claim that her personal email use was allowed, though her campaign continued to defend the candidate’s actions. The IG report was not mentioned by Comey.
During the course of the FBI investigation, agents sifted through nearly 30,000 emails that Clinton provided to the State Department, less than half her total emails. Her critics have now ramped up their calls for an independent investigation into the emails, arguing that the DOJ may not be impartial.
Comey’s announcement eliminates a legal hurdle on Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination. It does, however, provide the Trump campaign with a great deal of ammunition, as just about any 30-second segment of Comey’s remarks can be cobbled into a withering campaign-ad indictment of Clinton’s performance at State. Trump will continue to press her on this issue, as well as on her husband’s private meeting with Lynch just before the results were announced.
Contrary to Comey’s assertion, the presence of malicious intent was not required to show that Clinton broke the law. The statute deals with gross negligence, and Comey convincingly showed that Clinton was grossly negligent. But the laws don’t work for the rest of us as for the Clintons, so the final indictment here may be of America’s justice system, which seems as rigged as some Democratic primaries.
While Comey decided there was no legal justification to indict Clinton, he did acknowledge that she broke State Department rules. But he leaves her free now to campaign across the country with President Obama unencumbered by fear of indictment.
There may be no criminal indictment, but the question remains whether Clinton will stand indicted in the court of public opinion. She has apologized for her lapse of judgment, but not taken responsibility for it.
Clinton and other State Department officials stand accused by the FBI investigation of gross negligence; none should ever have a security clearance again.
The Clinton campaign will take this as a win, but Comey did not declare her innocent of wrong-doing. She cared more for her own interests than the nation’s security, and she betrayed a public trust. If she makes it to the White House, she may be a chastened and reformed person and a better president for it.
The odds of that are even smaller than the odds that her system wasn’t hacked.