The FBI's recommendation that no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her handling of email as secretary of state is an important victory for the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee. However, this finding will not bring an end to Republican criticism of the investigation and of Clinton's lack of trustworthiness.
FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday that "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring a case against Clinton, but he noted that Clinton and her staff were "extremely careless" in their email use. Clinton had used a private email server located at her New York residence while she was secretary of state. A year ago the inspector general for intelligence agencies informed the Justice Department that he had found classified information among emails Clinton had sent and received. Comey said today "a very small number" were marked classified at the time they were sent, contradicting Clinton's assertions to the contrary, and such information is not to be sent on an unclassified system.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi discovered that Clinton was using a private server in their investigation of the 2012 attack on an American outpost that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Subsequently, Clinton agreed to turn over 30,000 emails from her tenure as secretary of state. She did not turn over those she deemed as personal. Ultimately, government agencies determined that several hundred should have been marked classified, including a couple dozen that should have been designated top secret. In his statement, Comey also said, "We found no additional evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them."
Clinton's handling of emails has been used by her critics as further evidence that she is not trustworthy. The FBI's recommendation will now go to the Justice Department for final action. It is unlikely that the Justice Department will bring charges. But questions have been raised about the department's independence following President Bill Clinton's awkward meeting last week at the Phoenix airport with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who subsequently said she would accept the recommendation of the FBI.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wasted no time to express his reaction on Twitter. "The system is rigged. General Patraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment," he tweeted. Moments later he wrote on Twitter, "FBI director said crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem." It is clear that Trump and Republicans will use this finding as an example of the Clintons getting special treatment, and they will continue to attack her on the issue.
Clinton supporters welcomed the findings. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine told CNN, "I never believed that this was going to be something in the criminal realm or even close to it." Nonetheless, the FBI finding that Clinton was extremely careless in her handling of State Department email is very damning. And Clinton has mishandled the email probe from the very beginning, saying on several occasions that, "I am confident that I never sent or received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received." The FBI finding is that she should have known.
The cloud of controversy surrounding Clinton's email use at the State Department will continue to hang over her campaign for the White House. She has yet to offer a credible explanation for why she used a private server while she was secretary of state. Later this month Democrats will nominate her as their candidate for president. But, because of her "mistake," as she now calls it, her lack of judgment and trustworthiness will continue to be questioned by Clinton opponents.