July 5, 2016: FBI Director Comey announces he will not recommend Clinton’s indictment on any charge, but he calls her “extremely careless” in handling highly classified information.

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation for Clinton and her aides on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation in a press conference on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey gives a public speech in front of a group of reporters. The timing is surprising, since this brings an end to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email practices, and just a Sunday and the Fourth of July holiday separate this from the FBI’s interview of Clinton on July 2, 2016. Comey spends most of his speech criticizing Clinton, but ends it by saying he will not recommend that the Justice Department pursue any indictment of Clinton or her aides.

Comey’s fifteen-minute speech includes the following information, in order, with key phrases bolded to assist in understanding.

Comey begins by describing the FBI investigation:

  • The investigation started with a referral from Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough, and “focused on whether classified information was transmitted” on Clinton’s personal email server during her time as secretary of state. It specifically “looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.” The FBI “also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal email server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.”
  • The FBI found that Clinton “used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send email on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways…”
  • The FBI analyzed the over 30,000 work emails that Clinton did turn over to the State Department in December 2014, working with other US government departments to determine which emails contained truly classified information at the time they were sent, and which ones were justifiably classified later.
  • James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    From the group of 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, “110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was ‘top secret’ at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained ‘secret’ information at the time; and eight contained ‘confidential’ information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them ‘confidential’; the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

  • It had previously been reported that the FBI had recovered most or all of the 31,830 emails that Clinton had deleted, allegedly because they contained personal information only. However, Comey reveals that was not the case, and thousands of emails were not recovered. He gives an example of how when one of Clinton’s servers was decommissioned in 2013, the email was removed and broken up into millions of fragments.
  • The FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails” that were not included in the 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, even though Clinton claimed under oath that she had returned all her work-related emails. The FBI found these after they “had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private email domain.” Others were found in the archived government email accounts of other government employees whom Clinton frequently communicated with. Still others were found “from the laborious review of the millions of email fragments” of the server decommissioned in 2013.
  • Out of these additional work emails, three were classified at the time they were sent or received – none at the ‘top secret’ level, one at the ‘secret’ level, and two at the ‘confidential’ level. None were found to have been deemed classified later.
  • Furthermore, Comey claims “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her emails, so it is not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 emails to the State Department.”
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    The three Clinton attorneys who deleted emails are David Kendall (left), Cheryl Mills (center), and Heather Samuelson (right). (Credit: public domain)

    However, he also admits that “It could also be that some of the additional work-related emails we recovered were among those deleted as ‘personal’ by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her emails for production in 2014.” He claims that the three lawyers who sorted the emails for Clinton in late 2014 (David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson) “did not individually read the content of all of her emails…” Instead, they used keyword searches to determine which emails were work related, and it is “highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails” that were later found by the FBI elsewhere.

  • Comey states it is “likely” that some emails may have disappeared forever. because Clinton’s three lawyers “deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” But he says that after interviews and technical examination, “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

Comey then begins stating his findings:

  • “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.”
  • As an example, he points out that “seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the ‘Top Secret/Special Access Program’ [TP/SAP] level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails 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.”
  • He adds that it was a similar situation with emails classified at the “secret” level when they were sent, although he doesn’t specify how many.
  • He comments, “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, like those found at departments and agencies of the US government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”
  • He notes that “only a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”
  • He then criticizes the State Department as a whole. The FBI found evidence that “the security culture” of the State Department “was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.” This was especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.
  • Then he addresses whether “hostile actors” were able to gain access to Clinton’s emails. Although no direct evidence of any successful hacking was found, he points out that “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

After laying out the evidence of what the FBI found, Comey moves to the FBI’s recommendation to the Justice Department. He admits that it is highly unusual to publicly reveal the FBI’s recommendation, but “in this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

Then he comes to these conclusions:

  • “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. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
  • To justify this decision, he claims he examined other cases involving the mishandling or removal of classified information, and “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.”
  • He then says, “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. As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.”
  • He concludes by saying the FBI’s investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently, and without any kind of outside influence.

He doesn’t address the possibility of recommending the indictment of any of Clinton’s aides or other figures like Sid Blumenthal or Justin Cooper. He also doesn’t make any mention of the Clinton Foundation, though there have been media reports the FBI has been investigating it as well. After finishing his speech, he leaves without taking any questions from the media. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: A US Court of Appeals rules that work-related emails stored privately are still subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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Dr. John Holdren (Credit: public domain)

One of the judges, David Sentelle, writes, “It would make as much sense to say that the department head could deprive requestors of hard-copy documents by leaving them in a file at his daughter’s house and then claiming that they are under her control.”

The case involves the private email account of Dr. John Holdren, an official working for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a branch of the White House. It overturns a March 2015 lower court ruling that said his privately stored emails were not subject to FOIA searches.

While the case doesn’t directly involve Clinton, it has obvious implications for her since the issue of Clinton storing her emails on her private server is so similar. For instance, in June 2016, a federal judge put a FOIA lawsuit related to Clinton’s privately held emails on hold, saying it would be “wise” to wait for this court’s ruling before proceeding with the suit. (The Washington Post, 7/6/2016) (The Associated Press, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: The White House says it had no advance notice of the FBI’s decision about Clinton.

President Barack Obama talks with FBI Director James Comey during Comey's installation as FBI director, Monday, Oct. 28,2013, at FBI Headquarters in Washington. (Credit: Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press)

President Barack Obama talks with FBI Director James Comey during his installation as FBI director, Oct. 28,2013. (Credit: Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says, “I can first confirm what [FBI] Director [James] Comey said with regard to the White House, which is that no one from the White House received advance notice of his comments. In fact, no one from the White House received advance notice that he was planning to make comments today.”

Earnest refuses to comment on Comey’s assessment that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of sensitive classified material, or Comey’s recommendation that he nonetheless would not recommend she be indicted. (Politico, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: It appears Clinton’s emails include 29 at the “top secret” level, instead of the widely reported 22.

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

In his public speech ending the FBI’s Clinton investigation, FBI Director James Comey mentions Clinton’s emails contained eight chains containing “top secret’ information, instead of the previously reported seven chains of 22 emails. The New York Times reports that it is “not immediately clear what subject the eighth chain Mr. Comey cited involved, but his statement means that more than 22 emails already disclosed included ‘top secret’ information. Officials at the FBI did not respond to inquiries seeking further explanation.” (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)

On February 3, 2016, Representative Chris Stewart (R), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who viewed Clinton’s 22 “top secret” emails, claimed that there are seven more Clinton emails with a classification of “top secret” that the government has not revealed. (The Washington Examiner, 3/3/2016) Comey’s remarks suggest Stewart was correct.

July 5, 2016: 113 of Clinton’s emails contained classified information at the time they were sent, destroying one of Clinton’s main excuses for her actions.

This is according to public comments by FBI Director James Comey. Three of these were not included in the emails Clinton turned over to the State Department, but were discovered by the FBI through other means. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

The New York Times comments that this means those emails “should never have been sent or received on an unclassified computer network — not hers, not even the State Department’s official state.gov system. That fact refutes the core argument she and others have made: that the entire controversy turned on the overzealous, after-the-fact classification of emails as they were being made public under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], rather than the mishandling of the nation’s secrets.” (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: A State Department official denies the department generally has lax security.

In his public comments concluding the FBI’s Clinton investigation, FBI Director James Comey not only criticizes Clinton and her aides for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” but criticizes the department as a whole. He says that the FBI found evidence that “the security culture” of the State Department “was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.” This is especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.

However, State Department spokesperson John Kirby says, “We’re going to continue to look for ways to improve, but we don’t share the broad assessment made of our institution that there’s a lax culture here when it comes to protecting classified information.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016) (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: The FBI says Clinton both sent and received emails in seven above “top secret” email chains.

Although FBI Director James Comey announces he will not recommend an indictment of Clinton, comments in his public speech reveal information that could be very politically damaging for Clinton. It was previously known that Clinton’s emails contained 22 “top secret” emails in seven different email chains. However, Comey reveals, “Those chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending and receiving emails about those same matters.”

This contradicts previous news reports that Clinton had only been the recipient of “top secret” emails. Comey also says that seven email chains contain “top secret / special access program” (TP/SAP) information, which is above top secret, plus one more previously unknown email chain at the “top secret” level. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

The New York Times notes, “Those emails have been widely reported to include information about the Central Intelligence Agency’s program to use drones to track and kill terrorism suspects. … Only a small number of officials are allowed access to those programs, which are the nation’s most sensitive intelligence operations.”

Another 36 chains were “secret,” which means it includes information that “could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.” Eight more chains had information classified at the “confidential” level.

The Times comments that Comey’s speech “was, arguably, the worst possible good news Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign could have hoped for: no criminal charges, but a pointed refutation of statements like one she flatly made last August,” when she said, “I did not send classified material.” (The New York Times, 7/5/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: A former FBI assistant director believes Comey made the case Clinton should be indicted for gross negligence and is puzzled that Comey concluded otherwise.

Chris Swecker (Credit: North Carolina Government Crime Commission)

Chris Swecker (Credit: North Carolina Government Crime Commission)

Chris Swecker is a former FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division. He comments on FBI Director James Comey’s announcement earlier in the day that the FBI will not recommend that Clinton be indicted. Swecker believes that Comey should have recommended an indictment, as “he seemed to be building a case for that and he laid out what I thought were the elements under the gross negligence aspect of it, so I was very surprised at the end when he said that there was a recommendation of no prosecution. And also, given the fact-based nature of this and the statement that no reasonable prosecutor would entertain prosecution, I don’t think that’s the standard.”

He concludes, “The facts are the facts, and in this case I think there are a lot of things that are very unusual about this.” (MSNBC, 7/5/2016)

 

July 5, 2016: The Clinton campaign applauds FBI Director Comey’s decision ending the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

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Clinton addresses the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, DC, on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Molly Riley / The Associated Press)

Clinton happens to be giving a prescheduled campaign speech to a convention of the National Education Association (NEA) at the exact time FBI Director James Comey publicly announces he will not recommend Clinton’s indictment. She also doesn’t make any public comment immediately afterwards.

However, Clinton’s spokesperson Brian Fallon says, “We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the department is appropriate. As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”

The Washington Post notes that Fallon simply ignores “Comey’s criticism of Clinton’s handling of classified material in her email…” (The Washington Post, 7/5/2016)

 

July 5, 2016: Speaker of the House Ryan says Republicans will hold Congressional hearings to learn more about the FBI’s decision to not recommend an indictment for Clinton.

Congressman Paul Ryan (Credit: public domain)

Congressman Paul Ryan (Credit: public domain)

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, says he thought FBI Director James Comey was going to recommend prosecution, based on the first part of Comey’s public speech earlier in the day. He says Comey “shredded” Clinton’s defense of her email practices while serving as secretary of state, she had been “grossly negligent,” and “people have been convicted for far less.”

Ryan says the fact that the FBI decided not to recommend charges “underscores the belief that the Clintons live above the law.” He explains Republican hearings will be lead by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz. Ryan also says Clinton should be blocked from accessing classified information as a presidential candidate, and the FBI should release all of its findings regarding the Clinton email investigation. (The Hill, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016—November 3, 2016: A retired assistant FBI director claims to be hearing from an increasing number of FBI agents upset at Comey and the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

James Kallstrom expresses his concern that the agency’s reputation has been sullied by FBI Director James Comey. (Credit: Fox News)

James Kallstrom is interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News, on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

On July 5, 2016, former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom is interviewed by Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly about FBI Director James Comey’s announcement earlier in the day that he won’t recommend to indict Clinton.

He says, “I have defended him in the past, but those days are over… I thought the events of the last week there was something fishy going on… then he comes to that nonsensical conclusion that really wasn’t his to make.” He adds that he has spoken with about 15 current and former agents who “are basically worried about the reputation of the agency they love, that they’ve worked hard for all their life.” (The Washington Free Beacon, 7/6/2016)

On September 6, 2016, Kallstrom is interviewed by Kelly again, four days after the FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report and Clinton’s FBI interview summary are publicly released. He says he is “shocked and furious and dismayed” at Comey “pull[ing] the old political trick of waiting until a three-day holiday weekend and then releasing information,” as well as how the FBI conducted the interview of Clinton. He adds, “Megyn, I’ve had contact with 50 different people, both inside and outside, retired agents, that are basically disgusted. And, you know, it’s part of the last straw.” (Fox News, 9/6/2016)

On September 28, 2016, Kallstrom speaks on air to Kelly again. He says he has been contacted by hundreds of people, including “a lot of retired agents and a few on the job.” He claims the agents “involved in this thing feel like they’ve been stabbed in the back. … I think we’re going to see a lot more of the facts come out in the course of the next few months. That’s my prediction.”

Kallstrom poses for a Daily Beast article published on November 3, 2016. (Credit: Mary Altaffer)

James Kallstrom on November 3, 2016. (Credit: Mary Altaffer)

On November 3, 2016, the Daily Beast will publish an article largely based on a recent interview with Kallstrom. It will note that he recently endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. Kallstrom, a former Marine, founded a charity decades ago called the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. Trump’s personal charity, the Trump Foundation, gave Kallstrom’s charity $1,000,000 in May 2016, $100,000 in March 2016, and another $230,000 in prior years. These are unusually large numbers for Trump’s foundation. When Trump owned casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he allowed Kallstrom’s charity to hold fundraisers for free in them. Kallstrom met Trump on occasion over the years, often during public events.

Kallstrom tells the Daily Beast that he has gotten hundreds and hundreds of calls and emails from both active and retired agents. He claims that in all but two cases the agents have been supportive of what he’s said in his Fox News appearances, except for two agents who told him he should be more supportive of Comey. He claims that he’s never been in contact with agents directly involved with the Clinton email investigation, and has not tried to give them advice.

He says he’s apolitical and a registered independent voter, and although he plans to vote for Trump, he has never been involved in a campaign, including Trump’s. (The Daily Beast, 11/3/2016)

July 5, 2016—July 6, 2016: Comey’s comments indicate it is “very likely” Clinton’s emails were hacked, but solid proof may never be found.

In a July 5, 2016 public speech, FBI Director James Comey addresses the possibility that Clinton’s emails were accessed by outsiders. He says, “We did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal email domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

The next day, the New York Times reports that although Comey said there was no “direct evidence” Clinton’s email account had been successfully hacked, “both private experts and federal investigators immediately understood his meaning: It very likely had been breached, but the intruders were far too skilled to leave evidence of their work.”

The Times says that Comey’s comments were a “blistering” critique of Clinton’s “email practices that left Mrs. Clinton’s systems wide open to Russian and Chinese hackers, and an array of others.” However, “the central mystery — who got into the system, if anyone — may never be resolved.”

Adam Segal (Credit: public domain)

Adam Segal (Credit: public domain)

Adam Segal, a cybersecurity expert at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), says, “Reading between the lines and following Comey’s logic, it does sound as if the FBI believes a compromise of Clinton’s email is more likely than not. Sophisticated attackers would have known of the existence of the account, would have targeted it, and would not have been seen.”

Before Comey’s comments, Clinton and her spokespeople had said on numerous occasions that her server had never been hacked. In an October 2015 interview, President Obama came to a similar conclusion about her server: “I don’t think it posed a national security problem.”

The Times also comments that Comey’s “most surprising suggestion” may have been his comment that Clinton used her private email while in the territory of “sophisticated adversaries.” This is understood to mean China and Russia and possibly a few more countries.

Former government cybersecurity expert James Lewis says, “If she used it in Russia or China, they almost certainly picked it up.” (The New York Times, 7/6/2016)

Cybersecurity consultant Morgan Wright says the most likely suspects are Russia, China and Israel, “in that order.”

Ben Johnson, a former National Security Agency official and security strategist, says “Certainly foreign military and intelligence services” would have targeted Clinton’s emails. “They’re going to have a lot of means and motives to do this.” He also says it wasn’t just likely countries such as China and Russia, but “any country that’s looking to potentially have adversarial relations with us or just [desires] more relations with us.” He specifically cites Middle East countries specifically as having a likely motive. (Politico, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016: Sanders stays quiet on FBI announcement about Clinton.

Although Bernie Sanders is still running against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, he makes no public comment after FBI Director James Comey both heavily criticizes Clinton’s email practices and also says he doesn’t recommend her indictment on any charges. A Sanders spokesperson confirms that Sanders will not respond to the FBI’s decision.

The Washington Post comments, “Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Sanders refused to attack Clinton over the email episode. He alternately ruled it out as a legitimate issue, and hectored the media for focusing on scandal instead of substance.” (The Washington Post, 7/5/2016)

July 5, 2016—July 6, 2016: Trump criticizes FBI Director Comey’s decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment, saying the “system” is “rigged.”

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A Donald Trump tweet on July 6, 2016 (Credit: public domain)

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump responds to FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment through Tweets posted on Twitter.

Several hours after Comey’s public speech, Trump writes, “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem”

Then, the next morning, Trump writes in another Tweet, “I don’t think the voters will forget the rigged system that allowed Crooked Hillary to get away with ‘murder.’ Come November 8, she’s out!” (The Washington Post, 7/6/2016)