The FBI lifted a major legal threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign Tuesday, recommending no criminal charges for her handling of highly classified material in a private email account. But Director James Comey’s scathing criticism of her “extremely careless” behavior revitalized Republican attacks and guaranteed the issue will continue to dog her.
Comey’s announcement effectively removed any possibility of criminal prosecution arising from Clinton’s email practices as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week that she intended to accept the recommendations of the FBI and of career prosecutors.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said the statement provided more evidence against “Crooked Hillary” and showed anew that “the system is rigged.” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the decision not to prosecute simply defied explanation.
The findings concluded a yearlong FBI investigation into whether Clinton mishandled classified information, either intentionally or through gross negligence.
Investigators who pored over tens of thousands of emails found no proof that Clinton or her aides intended to break laws governing the handling of classified information, Comey said. But he said, “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
The announcement came three days after the FBI interviewed Clinton in a final step of its yearlong investigation.
“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position … should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for sensitive conversations, Comey said.
Yet after criticizing Clinton, her aides and the State Department for their actions, he said that after looking at similar circumstances in past inquiries, the FBI believed that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
“No charges are appropriate in this case,” said Comey, who began a 10-year term as FBI director in 2013, meaning he would presumably remain if Clinton is elected president.