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FBI Recommends No Charges Against Hillary Clinton In Email Investigation


A surprise news conference today stopped the political world for a few minutes. FBI Director James Comey stood behind a lectern and announced that he recommends no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton or her aides for using personal email to discuss State Department business - in a few minutes, what this means for the presidential race. First here's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson on what Comey had to say.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Three days after Hillary Clinton traveled to FBI headquarters for an interview with investigators and hours before she prepared to advance her presidential campaign alongside President Barack Obama, the FBI director summoned reporters for a politically explosive announcement.


JAMES COMEY: Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

JOHNSON: In short, James Comey said, expect no criminal charges in the most sensitive FBI investigation in years. He described a painstaking effort that took thousands of hours. FBI agents traced multiple servers and multiple electronic devices that Clinton used over four years as secretary of state. It was, Comey said, a big puzzle.


COMEY: It was like removing the frame from a huge, unfinished jigsaw puzzle and then dumping all the pieces on the floor. We searched through all of it to understand what was there and what parts of the puzzle we could put back together again.

JOHNSON: Comey said the FBI had uncovered no obstruction of justice or suspicious trashing of emails, no evidence of spying or disloyalty to the U.S. government and no strong evidence of criminal intent.


COMEY: In looking back at our investigations into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

JOHNSON: But the FBI director said his agents did find 110 emails on Clinton's private server contained classified information at the time the messages were sent or received.


COMEY: 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.

JOHNSON: For example, Comey highlighted seven email chains involving top-secret information where Clinton herself sent or received messages.


COMEY: There is evidence to support a 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.

JOHNSON: And he was not impressed with an argument Clinton has made that the messages were not marked classified when she received them. That doesn't matter, Comey said, because government officials at her level should know better.

FBI agents also examined whether criminals or foreign adversaries had hacked into Clinton's email setup. Authorities could find no clear signs of any hacking. But Comey said Clinton used the private email while traveling overseas, and the FBI thinks it's possible foreign states accessed her account. The FBI director made a point of insisting even though the case is politically charged, no one inside the Obama administration had interfered.


COMEY: What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done honestly, competently and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.

JOHNSON: In fact, Comey said, he didn't even let lawyers at the Justice Department know about his recommendation before the news conference began. The ultimate call about criminal charges will be made there, but there's virtually no chance justice will override the FBI and charge anyone with wrongdoing.

As for Clinton, her campaign said the use of personal email was a mistake she wouldn't make again. Her spokesman Brian Fallon said, we are glad this matter is now resolved. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.