Politico Breaking News…
But Comey scolds Clinton and her aides for ‘extremely careless’ handling of highly classified information.
By NICK GASS and NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 07/05/16 11:18 AM EDT Updated 07/05/16 03:47 PM EDT
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday announced the agency is not recommending the Justice Department bring charges against Hillary Clinton, while also denouncing the former secretary of state and her aides for the way they handled classified information through private email servers.
“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 information that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey told reporters in Washington, D.C., noting that the probe has found that the former secretary of state used several different email servers and numerous devices during her time in office.
Story Continued Below
Even so, Comey added later, “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. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before deciding whether to bring charges.”
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the campaign was happy the FBI probe was now in the rearview mirror. “We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate,” Fallon said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “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.”
While the FBI’s recommendation not to bring charges removes a significant hurdle in the way of Clinton and her presidential campaign, the presumptive Democratic nominee is likely to continue facing questions about her use of private email until November and beyond.
Comey’s decision to pepper his remarks with an array of judgmental language directed at Clinton and her aides provided plenty of fodder for Republicans eager to drive home with voters the former secretary of state’s trustworthiness problem.
Still, Republicans quickly denounced the decision by Comey, who was appointed to his current role by President Barack Obama in 2013 and had been appointed to his prior roles by George W. Bush.
inRead invented by Teads
“The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, making reference to the disgraced former CIA director who resigned in the wake of an extramarital affair with his biographer with whom he had shared classified information.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he is not surprised that the FBI recommended Hillary Clinton should not face charges for using an alternate email server during her time as secretary of state.
Kaine: I’m ‘not surprised’ FBI not recommending charges against Clinton
By LOUIS NELSON
Trump followed up with a statement in the afternoon, saying Comey offered up a detailed case on how Clinton “compromised the safety of the American people.”
“Our adversaries almost certainly have a blackmail file on Hillary Clinton, and this fact alone disqualifies her from service,” he said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan also tweeted his dismay, writing, “While I respect the professionals at the FBI, this announcement defies explanation. No one should be above the law.”
Comey, who did not take questions during the press conference, detailed specific findings from the FBI’s investigators, who interviewed Clinton just last Saturday morning for three-and-half hours.
Some of the findings contradicted statements from Clinton’s camp, which has long sought to downplay the seriousness of the probe and of the classified information on Clinton’s private server.
Of the 30,000 emails Clinton turned over to the State Department in 2014, Comey announced that 110 emails in 52 separate chains had been determined to contain classified information “at the time they were sent or received,” contradicting Clinton’s claim that she neither sent nor received information that was deemed classified at the time. Of those, he continued, eight included “Top Secret” information, while 36 chains had “Secret” information at the time it was received, and eight contained “Confidential” information, the lowest level of classification.
“None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at departments and agencies of the U.S. government — or even with a commercial service like Gmail,” Comey said.
In addition to those emails, Comey continued, another 2,000 were “up-classified” to make them “Confidential” after they had already been sent.
“But 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,” Comey said.
The FBI’s investigation is only the latest probe into one of the Clintons’ alleged wrongdoings, following multiple investigations into Clinton’s response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and an array of scandals that dogged President Bill Clinton during his time in the White House.
Clinton herself has lamented the lack of trust voters have indicated they have in her, from recent polls.
“And I’ve thought a lot about what’s behind it,” Clinton said June 27 at the International Women’s Luncheon in Chicago, the site of the 50th annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention. “And you know, you hear 25 years’ worth of wild accusations, anyone would start to wonder. And it certainly is true — I’ve made mistakes. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. So I understand people having questions.”
But even the integrity of the FBI’s investigation was called into question when Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting that same day with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. On Friday, Lynch said their meeting “cast a shadow” over the investigation and asserted that she “certainly wouldn’t do it again.” She also added that she “fully” expects to accept the recommendations she receives from career prosecutors.
FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington on July 5, 2016.
Transcript: FBI Director James B. Comey’s statement on the Clinton email investigation
Comey on Tuesday emphasized that “no outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.”
Trump, however, said he didn’t believe it. “Bill Clinton didn’t accidentally run into the Attorney General on the airport tarmac last week in Phoenix,” Trump said in his statement. “Hillary Clinton didn’t accidentally sneak into the FBI during one of the country’s biggest holiday weekends to testify on her illegal activities, something that wouldn’t be afforded to others under investigation (and on a Saturday of all days). It was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time.”
Patrick Leahy, the highest-level Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he takes Comey at his word that the FBI “conducted an apolitical and professional investigation” and hopes the Justice Department will take a similar approach.
“I trust that the Department of Justice career prosecutors will consider the FBI’s recommendation and make a final decision based on facts, not politics,” Leahy said in a statement.
Republicans, though, ripped into the FBI’s non-recommendation, with Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for George W. Bush tweeting, “Bottom line: Hillary is reckless, careless and has poor judgement, but she’s not a criminal. Which means she’s likely to be our next POTUS.”
“The FBI decision shows once again how the Clintons and others at the top get to live by a different set of rules from everyone else,” tweeted Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the former chairman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign, meanwhile, said he still has no intention of imminently dropping out of the race, despite the FBI’s decision.
In prosecuting similar cases, Comey noted that past instances have “involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice.”
“We do not see those things here. To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions, but that’s not what we’re deciding now,” Comey added. “As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.”
Among those uncovered that were not produced to the State Department, Comey said that three of them were classified when they were sent or received, one at the Secret level and two at the Confidential Level.
“I should add here that we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them,” Comey explained. “Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her emails, so it is not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 emails to the State Department.”
Comey said investigators did not find “direct evidence” that Clinton’s personal email domain, in its various configurations since 2009, had been compromised by hackers.
“But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence,” he added. “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”
FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.
The 7 key findings in the FBI’s Clinton email probe
By LOUIS NELSON
Anticipating the reaction to the recommendation, Comey said, “I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation as there was throughout the investigation. What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done honestly, competently and independently.”
“I know there were many opinions expressed by people not part of the investigation, including people in government, but none of that mattered to us,” he concluded. “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. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this organization.”
Comey prefaced the announcement by saying that he has not coordinated his statement with the Justice Department or any other government agency
“They do not know what I’m about to say,” Comey said, thanking the agents who worked on the case.
Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill told reporters in a statement Saturday that Clinton was “pleased” to help assist the Justice Department in wrapping up its investigation but said Clinton wouldn’t offer any additional comments regarding the interview “out of respect for the investigative process.”
Clinton told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd in a phone interview Saturday that she was “eager” to meet with the FBI but had “no knowledge” of when the federal agency would conclude its investigation.
Longtime Obama aide and strategist David Axelrod on Tuesday morning tweeted that Comey’s statement in which he recommended no charges but rebuked Clinton for carelessness “is about [the] best result she could get.”