Clinton dodges charges, not scrutiny
The fact that the FBI decided not to pursue formal charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of private email servers to conduct classified communication likely comes as a surprise to no one.
Or as her presumptive Republican presidential opponent Donald Trump put it: “THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED!”
FBI Director James Comey made the unsurprising announcement Monday morning, ending a more- thanthree-year inquiry and subsequent yearlong bureau investigation.
Comey reported that the FBI found that Clinton actually used more than one server and numerous mobile devices during her four years in the State Department. And each of those, while decommissioned, still contained troves of potentially sensitive data accessible to those with the right skills.
The FBI spent thousands of hours piecing together each of the electronic devices, searching email recipients from other areas of the federal government and reviewing the 30,000 emails that Clinton’s legal team returned to the State Department in 2014.
In total, the investigation found that 113 emails in 55 email chains have been determined to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was top secret at the time they were sent; 37 chains contained secret information at the time; and 10 contained confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails have been “up-classified” to make them confidential today, although it was not classified when they were sent.
While many pundits glossed over some of Comey’s finer points, we were particularly disturbed to hear that Clinton’s legal team — in preparing the large batch of emails to turn over in 2014 — did not individually read the email contents, but instead relied upon search terms to identify applicable evidence. Comey also concedes that this method likely led to some missed evidence, some of which was found by investigators in recipients’ email.
“It is also likely that there are other work-related emails that they did not produce to the State Department and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery,” he added. We’re sorry, what? Clinton has argued that the remaining email not disclosed was personal in nature, including everything from scheduling yoga classes to discussing flower arrangements for her daughter’s wedding. Why then did her lawyers wipe the server’s hard drives so completely that federal investigators couldn’t retrace her steps?
Comey said the FBI’s 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.
“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,” he said.
Despite that blistering review, Comey took his foot off Clinton – a judgement that a Clinton administration perhaps won’t forget.
“No charges are appropriate in this case,” Comey said in making his announcement. “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.”
Last week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would follow the direction of the FBI in the inquiry even though she could still choose to pursue charges. Her announcement came just a few days after she was spotted meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport.
Needless to say, Clinton’s critics did not take Comey’s decision lightly.
“Only a fool would believe that the meeting between Bill Clinton and the (Attorney General) was not arranged or that Crooked Hillary did not know,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Crooked Hillary Clinton knew that her husband wanted to meet with the (Attorney General) to work out a deal. The system is totally rigged & corrupt!”
And Trump may not be alone in his opinion. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, released two weeks ago, 56 percent of respondents disapprove of the way Clinton is handling questions over her use of the private server.
While she may have beaten the criminal charges, the charges against her decision-making may weigh heavier on her future.