Hillary Clinton probably won’t be arrested while running for president — that’s the good news she’s just received after a year-long investigation by the FBI into her unusual email habits.
The bad news is that the blast radius from the missile she dodged has left far-reaching political damage with polls showing her popularity impaired, her credibility on life support, and her claim to competence undermined.
The FBI announced Tuesday that it won’t recommend charges in a 16-minute heart-stopper of a statement from director James Comey whose every word held the potential to reshape the 2016 U.S. election.
It sounded for a moment like he might recommend charges. In similar cases, he said, charges might sometimes be laid. But he said past convictions for mishandling classified information involved various factors — like doing so wilfully, or out of a desire to harm the country.
Comey inflicted additional political damage while delivering his statement.
He labelled Clinton reckless with classified information. He said foreign hackers might have her emails. He said message were sloppily safeguarded — even a Gmail account would have had a full-time security staffer, which her homemade server didn’t have.
And he smashed the story line Clinton has been offering the public.
He contradicted her on multiple points:
- Clinton said she never sent or received classified messages through personal email. Comey said 110 were classified — with eight of them top secret.
- She said she set up the unusual system for the convenience of receiving all her messages on the same personal device. Comey said she used different devices, and different servers.
- She said she had turned over all her work emails for record-keeping. Comey said investigators were able to find a number she never submitted, though they concluded the omissions were accidental and not a coverup.
This unflattering recitation of the facts cast a shadow over what was to be a sunny day on the Clinton campaign. Hours later, she appeared with Barack Obama at the president’s first rally of the 2016 campaign.