FBI director reveals facts and fiction surrounding Clinton email setup
"Only facts matter," FBI Director James Comey said at a press conference Tuesday after explaining why his agency is not recommending criminal charges in connection with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email servers.
After more than a year of speculation and rumors, Comey used his statement to finally lay out the facts of the case. He revealed many new details about the activities of Clinton and her aides, some of which contradict her previous public statements about it.
Although Comey said "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring a criminal case against Clinton for her practices, he emphasized that the conduct of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was "extremely careless."
Here are seven significant new revelations:
1. Multiple servers: Media reports have often referred to Clinton using a private server stored in her home. "It turns out to have been more complicated than that. Secretary Clinton used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department," Comey said, detailing the extensive efforts the FBI went through to reconstruct her data.
2. Multiple devices: When her private email use was discovered last year, Clinton claimed she used a personal account for convenience, in part because she did not want to carry more than one device. Comey said Clinton used multiple mobile devices to view and send emails.
3. Classified information: Clinton initially said that she did not send or receive classified information on her email account. Once the intelligence community and the State Department confirmed that there was classified material, some of it top secret, she revised that defense to say that nothing was marked as classified at the time.
Comey poked several holes in that claim. In addition to more than 2,000 messages that were retroactively classified, eight email chains contained information that was top secret when they were sent, 36 contained secret information when they were sent, and eight contained confidential information. While that material was not marked as classified, Comey said any reasonable person in Clinton's position "should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."
4. Deleted emails: Although Clinton said that she turned over all work-related emails from her account, Comey revealed that several thousand emails were found that she did not provide. Some of those emails were found on accounts of people she corresponded with, others were recovered from her devices, and some were pieced together from millions of email fragments dumped into her server's slack space. According to Comey, no evidence was found that any messages were intentionally deleted in an effort to hide them.
Comey detailed how Clinton's attorneys went about separating the work-related messages from the personal ones through keyword searches and a review of header information. Her team did not read all 60,000 of Clinton's emails, but FBI investigators read every one that was available to them. However, Comey concluded that "there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort."
5. State Department culture: While Comey noted that it is particularly troubling that Clinton's emails were kept on a server that did not have a full-time security staff like those run by government agencies and commercial services, he pointed out that the review of her correspondences found problems with the overall security culture of the State Department. With regard to the use of unclassified email systems in particular, Comey said, the department "was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government."
6. Hostile actors: Comey confirmed what has been previously reported, that there is no evidence Clinton's email account was hacked by foreign spies or other hostile actors. However, he explained that investigators would not expect to see direct evidence even if it was hacked. Hackers did access private accounts of people Clinton corresponded with and she accessed her email while abroad in the territory of "sophisticated adversaries." "We assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal email account," Comey said.
7. Potential violations: After devoting most of his statement to Clinton's failures and careless behavior, Comey concluded that evidence does exist that statutes regarding the handling of classified information were potentially violated. Since prosecutors would have to weigh many factors, including intent, before pursuing a case, the FBI determined that a reasonable prosecutor would not file charges.
"In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts," Comey said. No evidence was found of intentional mishandling, disloyalty to the United States, or attempts to obstruct justice.
Comey emphasized that this does not mean another employee in similar circumstances would not face consequences. They could be subject to administrative or security sanctions, but that is not relevant to this investigation. The FBI has sent its recommendation that no charges be filed to the Department of Justice, where a final decision will be made.