FBI Says Clinton Emails Did Not Break Any Law, Sending Trump and GOP Into a Tizzy
The FBI has concluded that Hillary Clinton was careless, but she did not break any laws by using a series of private email servers when she was Secretary of State, settling a major cloud hanging over her presidential campaign even though it will remain a nagging Republican line of attack.
“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,” said FBI director James Comey, in a lengthy statement explaining the FBI's investigation.
“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,” said Comey, a Republican appointed by President Obama to the post.
The FBI’s conclusion came only days after Clinton answered investigators' questions for several hours, highlighting how her decision to use a personal email server remained an issue in the press that repeatedly brought her judgment into question. However, the FBI’s decision is now settled law. It may be debated on the campaign trail, but will not be litigated in federal court.
Clinton’s campaign issued a statement calling the FBI’s conclusion “appropriate” and reiterating that this entire affair was based on a mistake. “As the Secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again,” the statement said. “We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”
Republicans from Donald Trump to House Speaker Paul Ryan protested the FBI’s conclusion and said that Clinton deserves to be prosecuted, emphasizing yet again that facts, magnitude and reasonable perspectives don’t count for much in the GOP lexicon. A key tenet of Clinton’s defense was that past Secretaries of State, including Republican Colin Powell, did the same thing—used their private email accounts while in office.
Trump asserted that the “system was rigged” and said that former general David Petraeus “got in trouble for less” when he shared classified information with a biographer he was having an affair with. Ryan showed even more bias, saying the FBI director’s statement “defies explanation”—even though Comey gave a more detailed summation than the FBI usually gives.
As a supporter of the House’s leading anti-Clinton inquisition, its special committee looking at the tragedy that killed several diplomats in Benghazi, Libya (which also could not find fault with Hillary Clinton despite years of trying), Ryan also claimed that Clinton was still all but guilty of a crime.
“No one should be above the law. But based upon the director’s own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law,” Ryan said. “Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”
In his statement, Comey said he expected the public and candidates to debate the FBI’s conclusions, but said his agency’s investigation was not done to satisfy any partisan.
“I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation,” Comey said. “What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done competently, honestly and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.”
Bernie Sanders apparently watched the FBI director’s news conference, according to news reports, and his spokesman said the FBI’s conclusions will have no bearing on his decision to remain in the Democratic presidential race until the nominating convention later this month.
While the email server controversy has been in the mainstream media for months and has helped the GOP to reenforce negative images of Clinton as a politician who cannot be trusted because she plays by her own rules, it's worth noting what Republicans who are not overt Trump supporters are saying about it—namely, that it removes a big electoral obstacle.
Ari Fleisher, who was George W. Bush’s spokesman, tweeted, “Bottom line: Hillary is reckless, careless and has poor judgment, but she's not a criminal. Which means she's likely to be our next POTUS.”