Between July 6, 2016 and September 7, 2016: Comey faces frequent criticism from FBI field offices over his decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment.

The FBI field office in Kansas City, Kansas. (Credit: public domain)

The FBI field office in Kansas City. (Credit: public domain)

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey announces that he is recommending to not indict Clinton or any of her aides, effectively ending the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

CNN will later report, “But blow back from some current and former agents was immediate. As Comey made his rounds of visits to field offices around the country, he heard stinging criticism, particularly from retired agents. At one meeting in Kansas City, Comey was confronted with stinging criticism of the probe. He pushed back, saying the career agents who knew the most of the case arrived at the conclusion that the case against Clinton wasn’t even a close call.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

As a result, on September 7, 2016, Comey will write a letter to all FBI personnel, defending his decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment. The letter will immediately be leaked to the public.

July 6, 2016: A former FBI assistant director believes Comey could have indicted Clinton for gross negligence, but introduced an intent element that doesn’t apply.

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Ron Hosko (Credit: CNN)

Former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko, who worked under FBI Director James Comey, comments on Comey’s decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment. He believes Comey has “impeccable morality and ethics,” and says, “For an indictment you need probable cause, but prosecutors and investigators are looking for far more. You’re looking down the road at a substantial likelihood of success at trial that’s beyond a reasonable doubt.”

However, Hosko also believes the elements for an indictment were clearly met based on the wording of the federal “gross negligence” statute to which Comey referred in his July 5, 2016 public speech. He notes that Comey stated, “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.”

Hosko highlights Comey’s use of the phrase “extremely careless.” “To me, that has the same DNA as gross negligence that the statute requires. Those are identical twins.” He says that Comey seemed to introduce an element of intent that is not in that statute. (CNBC, 7/6/2016)

July 6, 2016: Although Clinton’s aides won’t be indicted, they may lose their security clearances.

Bill Savarino (Credit: public domain)

Bill Savarino (Credit: public domain)

The New York Times reports that although the FBI has decided not to recommend the indictment of Clinton or her former aides, the FBI’s Clinton investigation has “cast a cloud of doubt over the political futures of a number of her top advisers, including some expected to hold high-level jobs in her administration if she is elected president.”

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said that although there was no clear evidence that Clinton or her aides intended to violate national security laws, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” He also noted that people in similar situations “are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

The Times suggests this could affect the security clearances of “several dozen State Department advisers who, records show, facilitated Mrs. Clinton’s unorthodox email arrangement or used it to send her classified documents.” Those facing the most scrutiny are her former top advisers Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan, who continue to work closely with Clinton.

The State Department has restarted an internal investigation into Clinton’s email usage, and that could lead to some security clearances being revoked. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) has said that, based on the conclusions of the FBI’s investigation, Clinton should be denied the classified briefings normally given the major presidential nominees.

Bill Savarino, a lawyer specializing in security clearances, says, “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. You’ve got a situation here where the woman who would be in charge of setting national security policy as president has been deemed by the FBI unsuitable to safeguard and handle classified information.” He adds that if any of Clinton’s former top aides involved in the controversy were to ask him for help seeking a future security clearance, “I’d tell them that you’ve got a fight on your hands.'”

Sean M. Bigley, another lawyer specializing in security clearances, says his law firm has routinely defended clients who have lost their security clearances because of violations that were “much less egregious” than those described by Comey. “The folks who were involved with this, even on a peripheral basis, at least are going to be facing administrative action, or should be, based on the historical cases we’ve dealt with.” He says the threshold for administrative punishment is much lower than for criminal prosecution. (The New York Times, 7/6/2016)

July 6, 2016: “Extremely careless” is said to be the “money quote” of FBI Director Comey’s speech, and could affect the presidential election.

A Washington Post news analysis comments, “Of the more than 2,000 words FBI Director James Comey said in his unusually detailed statement [on July 5, 2016] that all but cleared Hillary Clinton of criminal indictment over the long-running probe into her email, two in particular got the most attention. ‘Extremely careless,’ Comey’s phrase to describe Clinton and her colleagues’ handling of classified information, has been called the statement’s ‘money quote,’ perhaps the biggest headline of the statement other than its absence of recommended charges, and the one nearly certain to any minute now be put on repeat in ads for presumptive [Republican] nominee Donald Trump.”

The Post also notes that in national polls, Clinton rates very poorly on honesty and trustworthiness, butt high on competence. However, the “extremely careless” quote could be used by Trump to criticize Clinton on one of her greatest perceived strengths.

Furthermore, it’s possible that “Comey’s comment will simply bounce off Clinton’s long-cultivated armor of competence.” But it’s also possible that the phrase could leave a permanent mark on her reputation. “Coming from a law enforcement official who has served both political parties and not shied away from conflict with either, it bears plenty of weight.” (The Washington Post, 7/6/2016)

July 6, 2016: The Justice Department won’t pursue an indictment against Clinton, ending the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

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Loretta Lynch holds a press conference on June 29, 2016 to explain her private meeting with Bill Clinton at the Arizona airport. (Credit: ABC News)

One day after FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not give the Justice Department a recommendation to indict Clinton, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Justice Department agrees with Comey and will not pursue the indictment. Comey did not publicly discuss Clinton’s former aides, but Lynch says there will not be any indictments of her aides either. She also announces that this closes the investigation into Clinton’s email practices during her tenure as secretary of state.

Lynch says, “Late this afternoon, I met with FBI Director James Comey and career prosecutors and agents who conducted the investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State. I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation.”

On July 1, 2016, Lynch said she would accept whatever recommendations Comey and her top prosecutors would give after it was discovered she’d had a meeting with Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband, several days earlier.

Lynch’s announcement comes one day before Comey is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee, in order to explain his decision to not recommend any indictments.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Reince Priebus criticizes Lynch’s decision, saying, “By so blatantly putting its political interests ahead of the rule of law, the Obama administration is only further eroding the public’s faith in a government they no longer believe is on their side.” (Politico, 7/6/2016)