FBI: 'No Charges are Appropriate' in Hillary's Emails
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed results of its "painstaking" investigation into multiple private servers and devices used by Hillary Clinton as secretary of State -- and has recommended to the Justice Department that charges not be brought against the presumptive Democratic nominee.
FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that there were emails containing top secret, secret and confidential information that were passed through Clinton's server, but told reporters today that "we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges."
Comey said he was taking the unusual step of publicly discussing the investigation and the agency's recommendations to the Justice Department, which will now decide whether to prosecute Clinton or not, in the interest of transparency.
"I'm going to include more detail about our process than I ordinarily would because I think the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest," the FBI director said at the outset of the announcement. "I have not coordinated this statement or reviewed it in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say."
The investigation, he noted, began as a referral from the intelligence community's inspector general with a focus on "whether classified information was transmitted on that personal system."
"Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system in violation of a federal statute that makes it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute, making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities," Comey said.
"And consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities, we have also investigated to determine if there is evidence of computer intrusion by nation-states or by hostile actors of any kind."
The director stressed that Clinton "used several different servers and administrators of those server during her four years at the State Department and she also used numerous mobile devices to send and to read e-mail on that personal domain."
"As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored and decommissioned in various ways. Piecing all of that back together to gain as full an understanding as possible of the ways in which personal e-mail was used for government work has been a painstaking undertaking, requiring thousands of hours of effort," he added, comparing it to dumping pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor.
FBI investigators read all 30,000 emails Clinton provided to the State Department. When they encountered information of a questionable status, they referred the email to the pertinent agency that was "an owner of that information" to determine if it was classified at the time of transmission or if it should be classified now -- also known as "up-classifying."
Comey said of those emails handed over to the State Department, 110 emails in 52 email chains were determined to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Ranked from the highest to lowest level of classification, eight email chains contained top secret information, 36 contained secret info and eight contained confidential material.
In addition, 2,000 other emails were up-classified to make them confidential.
"The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related emails that were not among the group of 30,000 emails returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014," Comey said. "We found those e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on servers or devices that had been connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, folks with whom a secretary of State might normally correspond. This helped us recover work-related e-mails that were not among the 30,000 that were produced to State. Still others we recovered from that painstaking review of the millions of e-mail fragments dumped into the slack space of the server that was decommissioned in 2013."
Of that batch, three emails were classified at the time they were sent or received: one at the secret level and two at the confidential level.
"We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them in some way. Our assessment is that like many e-mail users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from her system when devices were changed," he added, noting that "because she was not using a government account or even a commercial account like Gmail, there was no archiving at all of her emails."
Some could have been deleted as personal by her lawyers, he said, as that team did not individually read the content of all of her emails before deciding to submit or discard, yet relied on headers and search terms to find work-related content.
"It's highly likely that their search missed some work-related emails and that we later found them, for example in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server. It's also likely that there are other work-related emails that they did not produced to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all emails they did not produced to State, and the lawyers then cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery," Comey said.