FBI Director James Comey has just recommended that Hillary Clinton not be subject to criminal prosecution for using poorly secured private email servers while secretary of state.
This isn't to say that Comey went easy of the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. He called here "extremely careless" in how she handled information (including more than a half-dozen "top secret" emails) and stressed that "this is not to suggest that an individual in similar circumstances would not face" charges." Rather, the widely respected Comey said that in his view, it was unlikely that any sort of criminal case would win a conviction, as they need more proof of malicious motive.
From his official statement:
Seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later "up-classified" e-mails).
None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.
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. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.
From USA Today's account:
The FBI recommended Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges over her use of private e-mail as secretary of state, even though she and aides were "extremely careless" in handling classified information.
Though there is evidence Clinton acted improperly—and may have been hacked—no prosecutor would bring a case because there is no evidence she acted intentionally, FBI Director James Comey said.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch had previously announced that she almost certainly follow the FBI's recommendation, so that means this is the end of the line for what had emerged as one of the GOP's/anti-Clinton hail marys—that she would be indicted and have to drop out of the presidential race.
At the same time, from a purely political POV, Comey's comments leave the Trump campaign and others with plenty of ammunition to fire at Clinton. Clearly, Clinton will have to face up to her repeated assertions that she never sent or received any classified information via her private server. At best, she's so naive that she can't be taken seriously as a diplomat; at worst, she's simply lying. To the extent that her criticisms (many of them accurate, to be sure) of Donald Trump revolve around his temperament and judgment, this episode hardly covers her in glory.
What is most likely is that this outcome will simply harden the divide between the 40 percent (plus or minus) who prefer Hillary and the 40 percent (plus or minus) who prefer The Donald. Yes, Clinton has arguably the best resume of all time to assume the presidency. And yet she has effectively no vision for the country, other than a kinda-sorta status quo with whatever Barack Obama has been doing. While Obama may be popular these days, but about two-thirds of us think the country is going in the wrong direction.
As important, the email episode will likely further erode trust and confidence in government and politicians. From a libertarian perspective, that seems like a good thing, but as I've noted before, lack of faith in government often translates into calls for more regulation and controls.
Shucks, if only there were some sort of alternative way of thinking about politics and goverment? If only…
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) June 30, 2016