The FBI Recommends Hillary Clinton Not Be Charged For Using Personal Email Server

Over the course of the past year, for all her apparent inevitability, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been plagued with both sharp criticism from liberals and conservatives alike and legal concerns over her use of a personal email server while secretary of state. The concern was that her personal email server was less secure and that classified information could have been accessed by hostile parties, and while Bernie Sanders (her rival for the Democratic nomination) never made too much of the debacle, on the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump has spent the past year identifying Clinton as a criminal. But as of Tuesday, this rallying call against Clinton will carry a lot less clout. James Comey, FBI Director, announced the findings of the Clinton email probe, and the bureau is recommending no charges be brought against Clinton by the Department of Justice.

While Comey claimed “no reasonable prosecutor” would charge Clinton in a case like this, he noted that Clinton isn’t necessarily clear of all wrongdoing. “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling on classified information,” Comey stated. So, Clinton might not be going to jail as Trump would have liked you to believe, but the accusation of being “careless” made by the FBI isn’t exactly going to make her appear more presidential or trustworthy to prospective voters. Additionally, Comey noted the FBI assessed that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

Of the roughly 30,000 emails Clinton provided, only 110 included information deemed “classified,” and that, of the thousands of emails Clinton did not turn in directly, only three contained classified information. The probe itself was complicated by the fact that following the U.S. government’s current system for identifying information as top secret or classified, “seemingly banal” information is often retroactively labeled, according to Vox. Throughout the probe, Clinton maintained she had never knowingly or intentionally sent or stored classified information on the unsecured server.

One pivotal controversy within the emails related to 2012 drone strikes in Pakistan, which, according to The Wall Street Journal, were “widely reported in Pakistan,” but were “treated as secret by the U.S. government.” Just before Christmas in 2011, Clinton and her senior advisers discussed whether or not to object to the drone strikes with “cryptic” emails using an unsecured server, mostly because, again, it was just before Christmas and staffers were “outside of secure communication systems,” which is not too uncommon according to The Journal.

While the FBI is making it clear that the presence of this classified information on her unsecured server doesn’t merit criminal charges, the sanctioning of drone strikes against Pakistan won’t exactly help Clinton and her image as a warhawk to many progressives.

Surprising no one, Trump has already responded to Comey’s announcement, characteristically identifying the system as rigged and calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” I don’t doubt the labels and portrayals of Clinton as a dishonest criminal will continue from the right-wing, who are already offering very critical responses to Comey via Twitter, but what matters is the FBI doesn’t see it this way, and, according to The New York Times, it’s likely the Department of Justice will agree with the FBI.

In his Tuesday announcement, Comey claimed it was no usual feat for the FBI to make its recommendations to the Justice Department so public, and went as far as saying he had “not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government,” and that neither knew “what [he was] about to say.”

The FBI was simply making an exception to make clear the “entirely apolitical” and “professional” manner in which the case was being handled. After Bill Clinton’s scandalous private meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week, just ahead of the Democratic National Convention later this month, the FBI’s very public recommendation couldn’t have come at a better time.

The full transcript of Comey’s statement on the FBI’s decision to recommend no charges is available here.