Hillary Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in handling classified data over a private email server while she was secretary of state, FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday — but the FBI is recommending that no charges be brought against her.
Clinton’s use of a personal email account and private server to conduct official business has already been criticized by the State Department’s independent watchdog group as a violation of department policy.
The FBI spent months investigating whether the presumptive Democratic nominee intentionally or negligently mishandled classified information on her personal email account and private server.
Clinton has previously said that she never used her personal email to send information that was marked classified, although some of her emails had been retroactively classified, as NPR’s Politics team has reported.
Comey says that’s not true. FBI investigators found more than 100 emails that contained information that was classified at the time the email was sent, he said Tuesday.
The investigators also found thousands of work-related emails that were not included in the 30,000 emails Clinton released to the State Department in 2014.
But, Comey said, they did not find any information that those emails had been intentionally concealed from investigators.
“Our assessment is that like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails, or emails were purged from her system when devices were changed,” he said.
Comey also said that, while the FBI found no direct evidence that Clinton’s private email domain was hacked, “we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”
But Comey said that, despite the carelessness they uncovered, “our judgement is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
As a result, the FBI will be recommending to Justice Department prosecutors that no charges be brought against Clinton.
FBI recommendations to prosecutors aren’t usually released to the public, Comey said, but this case has been subject to an extraordinary level of scrutiny.
The FBI announcement — which, Comey noted, had not been coordinated with or preapproved by the Justice Department — comes less than a week after a controversial unscheduled meeting between U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. Lynch said the meeting was innocuous, and didn’t include any conversations about the investigation into Hillary Clinton.
But after bipartisan furor over the encounter, Lynch announced she would be accepting the recommendations of career prosecutors and the FBI in the case.