News Americas

Sunday 25 February 2018

Clinton was 'careless' but is cleared by FBI on email

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Nick Allen

The FBI has recommended that Hillary Clinton not face criminal charges following a long and controversial investigation into her use of a private email server while she was US Secretary of State.

James Comey, the FBI Director, made the announcement three days after agents interviewed Mrs Clinton for three-and-a-half hours.

However, he said she had been "extremely careless" in handling sensitive information.

He said it was possible that "hostile actors" including foreign states had gained access to Mrs Clinton's personal email account.

Mr Comey said: "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."

Seven email chains included "Top Secret" information, classified as such at the time they were sent and received.

Mr Comey said: "There is evidence to support the conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about those matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."

He added: "None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff."

Mr Comey said although the investigation found "extremely careless" behaviour by Mrs Clinton and her staff in their handling of sensitive information, the FBI had concluded that "no charges are appropriate".

He said the agency believed that "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case".

Mr Comey's decision almost certainly brings the legal part of the issue to a close and removes the threat of criminal charges.

Mrs Clinton's personal email server, which she relied on exclusively for government and personal business, has dogged her campaign since its existence came to light in March 2015.

She has repeatedly said that no email she sent or received was marked classified, but the Justice Department began investigating last summer following a referral from the inspector general for the State Department and the intelligence community.

The scrutiny was compounded by a blistering audit in May from the State Department's inspector general, the agency's internal watchdog, which said that Mrs Clinton and her team ignored clear warnings from department officials that her email set-up violated federal standards and could leave sensitive material vulnerable to hackers.

Mrs Clinton declined to talk to the inspector general, but the audit said that she had feared "the personal being accessible" if she used a government email account.

The Clinton campaign said agents interviewed her on Saturday at FBI headquarters. Agents had earlier interviewed top Clinton aides including her former State Department chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and Huma Abedin, a long-time aide who is now the vice-chairwoman of Mrs Clinton's campaign.

Mrs Lynch said she would accept whatever findings and recommendations were presented to her.

Though she said she had already settled on that process, her statement came days after an impromptu meeting with Bill Clinton on her plane in Phoenix that s he acknowledged had led to questions about the neutrality of the investigation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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