July 1, 2016: Attorney General Lynch says she regrets meeting with Bill Clinton.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives in Arizona on June 29, 2016 for a planned visit to promote community policing.. (Credit: ABC News)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives in Arizona for a planned visit to promote community policing. (Credit: ABC News)

At the same time that Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces she will mostly recuse herself from deciding if Clinton should be indicted or not, she also says that she regrets having a private meeting with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. The meeting took place four days earlier, on June 27, 2016.

She says, “I certainly wouldn’t do it again. Because I think it has cast a shadow. The most important thing for me as attorney general is the integrity of this Department of Justice. And the fact that the meeting I had is now casting a shadow over how people will view that work is something that I take seriously and deeply and painfully.”

Politico points out, “Republicans have long complained that the Justice Department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server constitutes a conflict of interest by default. They have argued that Lynch, a Democratic political appointee, might seek to protect the Democratic presidential nominee.” Additionally, Bill Clinton appointed Lynch to be US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. (Politico, 7/1/2016)

July 2, 2016: The FBI finally interviews Clinton as part of its email investigation.

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The Secret Service stands on guard at the home of Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC, on July 2, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

After months of speculation and after interviews with Clinton’s top aides, the FBI finally directly interviews Hillary Clinton. The interview takes place on a Saturday morning over the Fourth of July weekend, and takes place at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Although some news reports one day earlier correctly predicted the day it would take place, no photographers are able to take any pictures of her arriving or leaving.

The New York Times reports, “The interview had been weeks in the making as law enforcement officials and Mrs. Clinton’s team coordinated schedules. Democrats also hoped that holding the interview on a holiday weekend might ease the anticipated storm.”

The interview takes place just three weeks before Clinton is expected to be nominated for president at the Democratic convention. It lasts three and a half hours, a time some consider short after a year-long investigation. It is said to be voluntary, meaning she wasn’t subpoenaed.

Clinton is accompanied into the meeting by her personal lawyer David Kendall, her longtime aides and lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, and Katherine Turner and Amy Saharia, who are lawyers from Kendall’s firm Williams & Connolly. Eight officials from the FBI and the Justice Department conduct the interview.

Little is publicly revealed about the content of the interview. However, one unnamed person who is “familiar with the substance of the session”  characterizes the meeting as “civil” and “businesslike.”

It is anticipated that the interview means the FBI’s interview is nearing a conclusion. However, the Times also reports, “Although the interview on Saturday was an important step toward closure on the email issue, technical analysis of the material remains to be done and could stretch on for an indeterminate period.” (The New York Times, 7/2/2016)

Several days later, it will be revealed that the interview was not recorded, due to FBI policy, and Clinton didn’t have to swear an oath to tell the truth. Also, FBI Director James Comey was not one of the five or six FBI officials to take part, although he had previously given indications that he would. (The Hill, 7/7/2016)

July 2, 2016: Republicans criticize Clinton after she is interviewed by the FBI.

Hours after the FBI interviews Clinton as part of their Clinton email investigation, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says, “It is impossible for the FBI not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. What she did was wrong!”

The Republican National Committee (RNC) issues a statement after the interview, saying that Clinton “has just taken the unprecedented step of becoming the first major party presidential candidate to be interviewed by the FBI as part of a criminal investigation surrounding her reckless conduct.” (The New York Times, 7/2/2016)

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.”
  • 160705DeletingAttorneys

    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: 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: 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: 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 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: 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)

July 7, 2016: WikiLeaks claims the FBI did not ask them for copies of the Clinton documents they (WikiLeaks) are preparing to release.

WikiLeaks posts a tweet that states: “The FBI did not ask us for copies of our upcoming Hillary Clinton leaks before concluding its investigation. Credible detective work! Not.” (WikiLeaks, 7/7/2016)

On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange said in a public interview that WikiLeaks is preparing to publish leaks relating to Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Foundation. (The Guardian, 6/12/2016(ITV, 6/12/2016)

Also on July 7, 2016, WikiLeaks posts another tweet, suggesting that a release of Clinton documents will be coming soon: “Have more than 1,000,000 followers? Want early access to our pending Hillary Clinton publications? DM @WikiLeaks” (WikiLeaks, 7/7/2016)

July 7, 2016: The State Department resumes its Clinton email investigation.

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John Kirby (Credit: CCTV-America)

In January 2016, it was reported that the State Department had started its own investigation into Clinton’s email practices while Clinton was secretary of state. (This is separate from the State Department inspector general’s investigation, which concluded in late May 2016). However, this investigation was put on hold in March 2016 in deference to the FBI’s investigation. Now that the FBI finished its investigation on July 5, 2016, the State Department is resuming its own investigation.

Department spokesperson John Kirby announces the resumption, but he doesn’t reveal many details about it. He also sets no deadline for when it will be completed.

It is believed the investigation will consider administrative sanctions against Clinton and her aides. Although most of them are out of government, they could face some problematic penalties, such as the loss of security clearances, which could prevent future government employment. The investigation is likely looking into the past behavior of aides such as Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan, as well as Clinton herself. (The Associated Press, 7/7/2016)

The BBC comments that this means “Hillary Clinton – and some of her most trusted senior advisors – will twist in the wind a while longer. The State Department’s renewed inquiry into possible mishandling of classified information in emails is not nearly as serious as the recently closed FBI criminal investigation, but it keeps the email server story alive for an indeterminate period of time.”

Clinton cannot lose her security clearance if she’s elected president in November 2016, but she could be prevented from including some of her most trusted aides into positions in her administration if they lose their security clearances. The State Department’s investigation also is likely to help keep the controversy alive at least through Election Day. (BBC, 7/7/2016)