The FBI announced on Tuesday that while an investigation found evidence Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in the “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” the agency would not recommend charges be brought against her.
That seemed confusing to many, considering FBI Director James Comey also acknowledged earlier in his press conference that it’s a felony to “mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.”
But other factors come into play in the FBI’s recommendation.
“Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges,” Comey said. “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.”
This paragraph, in particular, from Comey’s statement helps explain the logic behind the FBI’s recommendation:
“In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, 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.”
In effect, it appeared the FBI was basing its recommendation on case law, which would be a significant consideration in court. And being “careless” with classified information might not meet the threshold of intent in a court of law.
Comey also noted in the press conference that the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state yielded evidence she sent or received 110 emails with classified information at the time, seemingly contradicting repeated statements she has made over the past year.
Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.