FBI Probe Contradicts Clinton's Claim She Never Sent Classified Emails

The FBI decided not to recommend criminal charges for Clinton.

ByABC News
July 5, 2016, 2:44 PM

— -- Today's bombshell announcement from FBI Director James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server underscores discrepancies between what the agency found in its yearlong investigation and what Clinton has publicly said about her email use.

Even though the FBI said it "cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges," there were several areas where Comey made it clear that Clinton and her team mishandled her email.

Clinton's First Remarks on Email Server

Clinton addressed her email server in a press conference at the United Nations on March 10, 2015.

"When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two ... Looking back, it would've been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn't seem like an issue," she said.

What the State Department Found

Although employees were allowed to send and receive emails via a private email account under certain circumstances, Clinton's exclusive use of a private server was a violation of the rules, according to the inspector general's report.

The report also said the inspector general "found no evidence that the secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server" and that she did not meet her "obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business." Had she done so, the report says, the relevant management offices "would not approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM [foreign affairs manual] and the security risks in doing so."

In the process of the investigation, the FBI determined that Clinton was not the first secretary of state to use a personal email address. Colin Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice used private email accounts to handle classified information during their tenures at the State Department.

Clinton Said She Handed Over All Work Emails

At that March 2015 press conference at the U.N., Clinton said that after she left office, "the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work-related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them. We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related emails and deliver them to the State Department."

What the FBI Investigation Found

It's "likely" that there were work-related emails that were not handed over to investigators, Comey said.

"The lawyers doing the sorting for Secretary Clinton in 2014 did not individually read the content of all of her emails, as we did for those available to us," he said today.

He said that Clinton's legal team used the email subject information and the results of certain searches for key terms to determine which messages were work-related.

"It's highly likely that their search missed some work-related emails and that we later found them," Comey said.

Clinton Said Server Was Secure

The personal server that was used to house accounts under the clintonemail.com domain was stored for much of her tenure as secretary of state at the Clinton family residence in Chappaqua, New York. That server was previously used by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches. So I think that the — the use of that server, which started with my husband, certainly proved to be effective and secure," she said in March 2015.

What the FBI Investigation Found

Comey said today there were some occasions when Clinton's information could have been breached. He cited one instance in 2013 when the email software on the server was removed in order to be replaced with a newer version.

"That didn't remove the content, but it was like removing the frame from a huge unfinished jigsaw puzzle and dumping all of the pieces on the floor. The effect was that millions of email fragments ended up in the server's unused, or slack, space," he said.

Comey added that the FBI "did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton's personal email domain in its various configurations since 2009 was hacked successfully."

The FBI determined that "hostile actors" did hack into the accounts of Clinton's confidants and that her travel overseas into "the territory of sophisticated adversaries" could have put the security of her correspondence at risk.

"Given that combination of factors, we assessed it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal email account," Comey said.

Clinton Defends Server in Presidential Debate

In a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Feb. 4, 2016, in New Hampshire, Clinton said she had "absolutely no concerns about" the investigation.

"I never sent or received any classified material," she said.

What the FBI Investigation Found

Comey said today that 110 emails in 52 email chains were determined to contain some form of classified information at the time they were sent.

He went on to specify that Clinton was on seven of those chains that were classified as top secret.

Clinton Reiterates Stance

Just hours after meeting with FBI investigators in Washington on July 2, Clinton stuck to her oft-repeated version of events.

"Let me just repeat what I have repeated for many months now," she said in the interview on "Meet the Press." "I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified, and there is a process for the review of material before it is released to the public, and there were decisions made that material should be classified. I do call that retroactively classifying."

What the FBI Investigation Found

Clinton is only partially right: There were certain documents and emails that were made classified after being sent — which Comey referred to as being "up-classified." There were about 2,000 cases of that.

But there were also 110 emails that Comey described as being classified at the time they were sent. Moreover, Clinton appeared to contradict her claims of never having sent anything marked classified. Comey indicated that there was "a very small number of the emails... [that] bore markings that indicated the presence of classified information."