FBI Director James Comey announced Tuesday he will not recommend the Department of Justice seek criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her personal email use while secretary of state.
The decision helps remove what was arguably the biggest threat to her presidential campaign going forward – a criminal referral that could have led to an indictment – just weeks before her party’s national convention in Philadelphia where she is set to seal her nomination as the Democrat standard bearer.
Clinton consistently had downplayed the FBI investigation, even calling it a “security review,” and as recently as June 3 said there was “absolutely no possibility” she’d be indicted. Weeks ago, a scathing State Department inspector general report directly countered her long-running claim that her personal email use was allowed, though her campaign continued to defend the candidate’s actions.
In the wake of that report, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump stepped up his criticism of her email actions and said she belongs in “jail.”
The DOJ decision does not strip the email controversy as a campaign issue – Trump and the Republicans are sure to keep hammering it as the campaign lurches into full general election mode post-conventions – but shows the federal investigation did not determine the actions to be criminal, even if they were ill-advised and potentially damaging to national security.
The decision comes more than a year after knowledge of Clinton’s use of a personal email and server first became public. Clinton responded at the time with a point-by-point written explanation and a press conference in which she said she had opted to use her personal server for “convenience.”
But critics said she was clearly circumventing government systems in order to try to shield her communications from public records requests, potentially putting sensitive and highly classified government secrets at risk in the process.
During a subsequent review, more than 2,000 emails on the server were found to have contained information now deemed classified, though they apparently were not marked classified when sent.
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