It’s the conclusion of the FBI that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t face any criminal charges for using a private server to handle classified emails while secretary of state. We agree.
She did display boneheaded judgment in this case: She, of all people, knew the need for security, and the risks attendant in leaving the Secretary of State’s email vulnerable to hacking. And in announcing Tuesday that the FBI isn’t recommending any criminal charges, Director James Comey harshly critiqued Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of government secrets on servers without adequate security.
But it’s up to voters to weigh that against her experience, character and policy positions in deciding whether she should be our next president. And Americans, polarized though they may be, have to trust some set of facts in criminal cases. Whose facts would those be, if not those of the FBI?
Comey’s summary of the investigation’s findings was unusually detailed, making it clear that no stone had been unturned in the probe of Clinton. He said that 110 emails containing classified information were sent or received on her server. He said that several thousand work-related emails were not among the group of 30,000 emails that Clinton turned over in 2014, though they were not intentionally hidden. And he said it’s possible that hostile nations or entities gained access to her account.
But Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring the case, that investigators didn’t find “clear evidence” that Clinton or her colleagues intentionally released classified information and that he couldn’t find a case in which charges were filed based on similar facts.
Clinton has repeatedly said that no email was marked classified at the time she sent or received it, and that other secretaries of state also used a private server. A State Department audit concluded that she feared that her personal messages would be accessible if she used a government email server.
It’s up to voters to weigh Clinton’s experience, character and policy positions against this scandal. But we have to trust some set of facts. Whose, if not the FBI’s?
Legally, that’s that, however much her critics wish the law were different. That said, Clinton should have known better, and her inner circle should have saved her from this blunder. Predictably, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump heckle-tweeted almost immediately, complaining that a “rigged system” was protecting “crooked” Hillary.
If Trump has any actual evidence of that claim, he should produce it. Comey has a well-deserved reputation as a straight shooter. When he says that “no outside influence of any kind was brought to bear” on the investigation, we take the FBI’s word over Trump’s any day.
The timing of Comey’s announcement took the luster off what was supposed to be a big day for the Clinton campaign – her first joint campaign appearance with President Barack Obama. But it does clear the air before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in three weeks.
This investigation, which has been hanging over Clinton for a year now, accelerated in recent days. The FBI interviewed Clinton on Saturday, a day after Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would accept the FBI’s recommendation. She had no choice after a meeting with former President Bill Clinton at the Phoenix airport a week ago. While both insisted they only talked about golf and grandkids, that, too, was a blunder that should have been headed off by someone. They both later conceded it was a mistake.
These lapses in judgment by the Clintons feed the narrative – fair or not – that they learned nothing from Bill Clinton’s drama-stained tenure, and that they believe they can play by different rules from the rest of us. The email scandal may be mostly behind her, and Trump may have nothing but hot air to stand on. But Hillary Clinton still has a lot of work to do to win back Americans’ trust.