The FBI recommended on Tuesday that no criminal charges be filed over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was secretary of state, but rebuked the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate for “extremely careless” handling of classified information.
While FBI Director James Comey’s announcement lifted a cloud of uncertainty that had loomed over Clinton’s White House campaign, his strong criticism of her judgment ignited a new attack on her over the email issue by Donald Trump, her likely Republican opponent in the Nov. 8 election.
Comey’s comments are likely to reinforce what polls show are widespread public concerns about Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness. Republicans have pointed to the controversy as evidence that she considered herself above the law.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest- ranking elected U.S. Republican, said in a statement that Comey’s announcement “defies explanation.”
Ryan called on the FBI to release all of its findings in the case and said Comey would be called to testify before the House Oversight Committee. “We need to know more,” Ryan told Fox News.
In a lengthy statement on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s conclusions from its yearlong investigation, Comey directly contradicted statements Clinton has made while defending her use of the private email setup.
He said, for example, that the FBI found at least 110 emails that contained classified information when they were sent, although Clinton has repeatedly said she never sent or received classified information on her private servers.
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.
But he said the FBI concluded “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges. “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,” Comey told reporters in Washington.
His recommendation will likely stand. The country’s top prosecutor, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, said on Friday she would accept the recommendations of career prosecutors and the FBI director on whether to charge Clinton for mishandling emails.
Clinton’s campaign was anxious to move on after Comey’s announcement, saying in a statement it was pleased with the FBI decision.
“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,” spokesman Brian Fallon said.
He did not respond to questions about Comey’s rebuttal of the main arguments Clinton has offered in defense of her use of private email.
At a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday night, Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, said the controversy should disqualify Clinton from being president and that her email system may well have been hacked by U.S. enemies.
“Our enemies may have a blackmail file on crooked Hillary and this alone means that she should not be allowed to serve as president of the United States,” Trump said. “We now know that she lied to the country when she said that she did not send classified information on her server. She lied!”
Following Comey’s late-morning remarks, Clinton became one of the top trending topics on Twitter, with about 671,000 tweets posted by 4 p.m. (2000 GMT). The overall sentiment was more negative than positive, with about two negative tweets for every positive one, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.
The FBI director’s announcement came hours before Clinton’s first campaign appearance with President Barack Obama, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where neither Obama nor Clinton mentioned the email probe. It also came less than three weeks before the Democratic National Convention at which Clinton is to be nominated as the party’s candidate for the November election.