Just a day after WikiLeaks tweeted a link to more than 1,200 emails regarding the Iraq War culled from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey said the bureau would not recommend criminal charges for the former Secretary of State and that there was no evidence her email system had been breached by hackers.
“Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said during a news conference.
Clinton has been widely criticized for using private email to conduct State Department business, but has asserted all along that she did not use the set up to send classified information. However, in the months since Clinton turned over 30,000 emails, 110 in 52 email chains were considered by the owning agency to include classified when sent or received.
And Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange had claimed that there was enough information in the emails released to indict Clinton, but Comey said that the FBI didn’t find evidence that Clinton intentionally passed classified information over her private email system, a criterion that would be essential to filing criminal charges.
The bureau “found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them,” Comey said. “Our assessment is that, like many e-mail users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her e-mails, so it is not surprising that we discovered e-mails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 e-mails to the State Department.”
He did, however, call Clinton and her colleagues “extremely careless” in the “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Comey also noted that investigators “did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked,” though he was quick to point out that “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”
Marcel Lehel Lazar, better known as the Romanian hacker Guccifer, claimed in May that he didn’t just publicly expose U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence and address, but actually broke into her email server.
Clinton’s camp denied this claim, noting that the FBI’s past review of Clinton’s server logs turned up zero evidence of infiltration. Lazar did not back up his statement with proof.
But hostile actors did access the private commercial e-mail accounts of people that Clinton was in regular contact with through her personal account, Comey said, and because her use of private email was well-known and widespread with much correspondence done while Clinton was traveling abroad, “ it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.”
The ongoing email controversy had cast a pall over Clinton’s presidential campaign and had reinforced the idea among voters that the presumptive Democratic candidate was untrustworthy or at least played loose with the rules. Indeed, Comey said that lesser government officials would have been “subject to security or administrative sanctions” for similar actions.”
Just last week, former President Bill Clinton caused a stir by meeting up with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a tarmac when the two reportedly inadvertently crossed paths. Shortly after the meeting, which the AG characterized as a discussion of family and personal matters and not the impending investigation of the former First Lady, Lynch said she’d abide by any recommendation made by the FBI.
Comey’s conclusions came on the heels of the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s report that in effect cleared Clinton of wrongdoing related to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.