FBI Director: Evidence Against Clinton Points To Carelessness, Not Criminality
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The director of the FBI has announced this morning that the agency is wrapping up its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state. And they are not recommending that charges be brought against her.
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JAMES COMEY: In looking back at our investigations into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.
GREENE: That is FBI Director James Comey making the announcement a short while ago. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is in the studio with me. Hey, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: OK. So Hillary Clinton interviewed over the weekend by the FBI, I mean, focusing, we presume, on this question of whether or not she knowingly mishandled classified information. She has always said that she did not - a whole lot of expectation as to where this would go. And so what have we learned this morning?
LIASSON: What we learned is she's not going to be indicted. FBI Director Comey said he's making a recommendation that she not be indicted. He said although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. He went out of his way to be transparent about it. He said this is very unusual for an FBI director to stand up and explain exactly what they did. He talked about it at length. He said we - this investigation was done honestly, competently and independently. No outside influence was brought to bear. He said he knows there's a lot of politics swirling around this, but that he did this by the book.
GREENE: OK. Let's look at this from two different angles. No indictment - probably good news for Hillary Clinton. I mean, this whole investigation has been lingering for a while. And it's been a problem for her.
LIASSON: It's been a huge problem for her. And it has underscored and created a lot of her basic problem with voters, which is that majorities of voters say that she's not honest or trustworthy. And this email controversy - it seemed like she had something to hide. She didn't play by the rules. She didn't seem to be explaining it fully. Even what Comey said today contradicts a lot of the things that she said. She says that there was nothing classified at the time in her email exchanges. And he said no, actually, there were things that were classified at the time, over 100 emails. But still, they didn't meet the standard for prosecution.
GREENE: OK. Not meeting the standard prosecution, but the FBI director saying there were actually classified emails - I mean, that...
LIASSON: Yes, classified emails at the time, not retroactively classified.
GREENE: Which is the distinction she has always made, saying she didn't pass on...
LIASSON: Yes. She was always saying that they were up-classified, in other words, they were classified later.
GREENE: Later on.
LIASSON: But he said no, they were eight top secret, 36 secret and eight what's called confidential, which is the lowest level.
GREENE: Which - and that leaves the big question. I mean, even though no indictment, does the other stuff that Comey said leave her vulnerable to Republican criticism and leave her vulnerable to Donald Trump?
LIASSON: Absolutely. Donald Trump has been saying the system is rigged, that the Obama administration would never indict Hillary because she works for him. And Obama wants to get her elected.
And he's going to say there is corruption. He's going to point to the fact that she was - that Comey said she was extremely careless, that even though there was no evidence of hacking by hostile actors, there could have been. He said we wouldn't have seen this because these hostile actors, I guess, are pretty good at covering their footprints. He's going to point to the tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch...
GREENE: Attorney general, yeah.
LIASSON: ...The the attorney general. He - there is a lot of evidence that her opponents, namely Donald Trump, can point to to say this is a very, very, very damning report.
GREENE: OK. We've been talking to NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks a lot.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.