The big announcement that we’ve all been waiting for came Tuesday when FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency would recommend to the DOJ that no criminal charges be brought against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her private server/classified emails debacle. Comey did characterize Clinton as “extremely careless,” but said that “our [the FBI] judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Really? No reasonable prosecutor?
Comey was highly critical of Clinton’s negligence, but also did not field any questions from press, a move that Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge called “highly unusual.” In all, 110 emails sent or received on the Clinton private server did in fact contain classified information, with seven of them classified at the highest level of “Top Secret/Special Access Program.” Comey added that it was very possible that foreign entities had gained access (a.k.a. hacked) to her personal email account. “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.
Criminal intent and negligence do differ. Criminal intent is a plan to commit a crime and cause harm by someone who knows the consequences, but continues, anyway. Negligence is unintentional behavior and neglect of responsibility to care for those whom have entrusted a job to a person.
“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,” Comey said.
It all started when the New York Times first broke this story in March 2015, reporting that Clinton had used a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, and since then, Hillary has faced the threat of indictment by federal prosecutors for mishandling of classified information.
Recent events leading up to the July 5 FBI announcement have left tongues wagging. On May 25, the State Department’s inspector general released a report criticizing Clinton’s use of private email as a clear violation of department policies that have been in place since 2005. But July began with Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s July 1 meeting with Bill Clinton on an airport airport tarmac, where the two reportedly talked about “grandchildren and golf” in the 100-plus-degree Phoenix heat. The next day, on a Saturday, Hillary was grilled by the FBI for nearly 4 hours in Washington, D.C. Three days later, Comey announced that Clinton would not be prosecuted. And the very next day, on July 6, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced with very uncharacteristic lightning speed that she would accept the FBI’s recommendation. Done deal.
Lynch has been highly criticized for a range of issues, from failing to recuse herself from the beginning to her latest on-the-tarmac meeting. Lynch’s best chance of holding onto the AG job is under a Clinton presidency, where Hillary insiders say that Lynch will likely remain in the job as the first black female AG. As a political appointee, Lynch clearly has a vested personal interest in this year’s election outcome.
Shortly after Comey’s decision, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon issued this written statement:
“We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate,” he said. “As the Secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”
Clinton’s Republican rival, Donald Trump, had this to say about the FBI’s decision: “Comey let Clinton off the hook. The fix was final. The Obama administration’s anointed successor has had an indictment removed from her path and will now be able to glide to the rigged Democrat nomination.” Even Bernie supporters are upset. The vocal contingent was “feeling the Bern” as they’ve kept pushing for a Clinton indictment.
Comey’s decision comes mere days before the DNC in Philadelphia, and clears Clinton’s path by removing perhaps her biggest presidential campaign obstacle.
But the issue will continue to follow Clinton. The House Oversight Committee Chairman has asked the FBI to investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress about her email, and Speaker Paul Ryan has asked that Clinton be denied access to classified briefings for the remainder of the campaign. And finally, the State Department has reopened its investigation of Hillary’s private email server, as they were expected to do after the DOJ completed its own investigation. The State Department inquiry will review involvement of personnel who are still current employees to determine whether disciplinary action should be levied.