At 11 AM Tuesday morning, FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI would NOT be recommending the Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton be charged with a crime in relation to her mishandling of government emails while she was Secretary of State.
Comey first spent several minutes explaining how the FBI carefully and comprehensively went through the multiple servers Clinton used during her time at the State Department. The FBI went through all of the emails she provided as well through emails received by people she was in contact with. They even reconstructed as many deleted personal emails as they could from her hard drives. Think of the super cool scenes in Hollywood movies where hackers recover deleted emails except it’s a really long and tedious process.
A lot of people have been praying and hoping that the FBI would find a smoking gun and for a few minutes, it seemed like they had when Comey announced that they had found 3 emails with classified information: 1 at the secret level and 2 at the confidential levels (secret is a higher classification than confidential).
However, Comey also explained that there was absolutely no evidence that those emails had been deleted as an attempt to cover anything up. He even explained the process by which her lawyers would have unintentionally deleted emails they should have turned over. This may sound like he was defending Clinton but he was simply explaining the process that led the FBI to their conclusions that no criminal actions were taken.
Comey also explained that while there is no direct evidence that Hillary’s servers were hacked, they were definitely at risk and there is no way to know that they weren’t hacked because of the way the system was set up. That might sound like splitting hairs but it’s an important distinction. If the proper precautions had been taken, it would have been easier to definitively know if something had happened.
Comey went on to tear the State Department a new one over their “extremely careless” handling of classified material but finally got to the FBI’s recommendation:
In our system, the prosecutors makes the decisions about whether charges are appropriate based on evident the FBI helps collect. Although we don’t normally make public our recommendation to the prosecutors, we frequently make recommendations and engage in productive conversation with prosecutors about what resolution may be appropriate given the evidence. In this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.
Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, out judgement is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.
Comey also said, “We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.”
This doesn’t necessarily end the saga of Hillary’s emails as the Department of Justice could still decide to press charges anyway, although it’s unclear what they would hope to accomplish given the lack of evidence. The most likely outcome is that Donald Trump just lost his best chance at defeating Hillary and after a few weeks of him bellowing that the fix was in, no one will remember what all the drama was about.
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