FBI director James Comey announced on Tuesday that the bureau did not recommend charging Hillary Clinton for improper use of her private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, ending the months-long threat of prosecution which has hung ominously over Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Comey severely rebuked Clinton, however, saying that she and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information”.
“Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position . . . should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for the kind of high-level conversations which took place, he said.
The FBI probe charged with investigating the Democratic presidential candidate had been tasked with discovering if Clinton or her staff had intentionally mishandled classified information. It concluded that any transgressions had been unintentional.
The year-long investigation began after it was discovered that Clinton had routed government emails to her personal home server in New York while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. The former secretary said that using a single account was more convenient than keeping separate personal and official email accounts.
Sensitive information was found among the emails. Clinton had said that she never passed on information which had been marked as classified at the time it was sent, a statement which drew accusations of lies and cover-ups from her critics in light of the probe’s discoveries.
As part of the investigation, Clinton turned over approximately 30,000 emails to the FBI, which determined that 110 of them contained information that had been classified at the time the emails were sent and received, and 2,000 of them contained “upclassified” content which was considered classified after being sent.
Comey said that “only a very small number” of the emails were marked as officially bearing classified information, but many of them contained classified subjects nonetheless.
Though the probe concluded that there was no evidence of “hostile actors” compromising Clinton’s emails through hacking, the bureau said it couldn’t rule out the possibility entirely, considering that Clinton used her email extensively overseas and that the correspondence of some of her associates had been hacked.
Comey said that prosecution would only be recommended if evidence were found of someone intentionally mishandling information, obstructing justice, or appearing disloyal to the US, and that Clinton had not been guilty of any of those charges.
“We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” he said.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that she was officially closing the investigation into the matter in light of the FBI’s recommendation against prosecution.
The Clinton camp welcomed the news with relief.
“We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “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.”
However, Republicans were less pleased. Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump angrily tweeted that the decision in favor of “Crooked Hillary” was “unfair”.
The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2016
Crooked Hillary Clinton lied to the FBI and to the people of our country. She is sooooo guilty. But watch, her time will come!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2016
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also condemned the decision, saying that the FBI’s recommendation “defies explanation.”
“Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent,” said Ryan in a statement.