Newly released government documents show just how far FBI agents went to determine whether Hillary Clinton broke the law with her use of a private email server as secretary of state, even playing a trick on her during their three-hour interview with her in July.
At the core of the FBI’s criminal investigation were two questions: Was classified information sent through the server? And if so, did Clinton know that was happening or intentionally send classified information?
FBI Director James Comey recently said his agency could prove the presence of classified information in the e-mails but found no evidence to indicate that Clinton knew she was sending or receiving classified information — a conclusion reflected in the FBI documents released today.
“Clinton did not recall receiving any emails she thought should not have been on an unclassified system,” reads a summary of the FBI’s findings from July. “She relied on State officials to use their judgment when emailing her and could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”
As Comey said before, three email chains with Clinton included at least one paragraph marked with a “(C),” indicating the paragraph contained confidential material.
“Clinton stated she did not know what the ‘(C)’ meant at the beginning of the paragraphs and speculated it was referencing paragraphs marked in alphabetical order,” according to the FBI summary.
In addition, the paragraphs were not properly marked, lacking a header or footer indicating they contained classified information. But before their interview with Clinton, FBI agents placed the appropriate header on one of the emails to see how she would respond.
When confronted with the altered document, Clinton recognized the header and footer as indicating the presence of classified information, but she didn’t connect them to the “(C)” marking and said she didn’t think the email’s content was in fact classified. She questioned why it was marked as such, according to the FBI summary.
In a statement, Brian Fallon, the press secretary for the Clinton campaign, said, “We are pleased that the FBI has released the materials from Hillary Clinton’s interview, as we had requested. While her use of a single email account was clearly a mistake and she has taken responsibility for it, these materials make clear why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case.”
In all, the FBI said, it found 193 emails — making up 81 email chains — that contained some level of classified information at the time they were sent. Information in 68 of those email chains remains classified, according to the FBI.
The majority of those email chains were initiated not by Clinton but by aides or other State Department officials.
Authors of the emails told the FBI that they “used their best judgment” in drafting the emails and said “it was common practice at State to carefully word emails on unclassified networks so as to avoid sensitive details or ‘talk around’ … classified information,” according to the FBI summary.
Aides and others interviewed by the FBI said that they had no reason to believe state employees ever intentionally mishandled classified information but that they understood recent concerns over having that information on a private server.
In a statement, the FBI said, “Today the FBI is releasing a summary of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s July 2, 2016, interview with the FBI concerning allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on a personal e-mail server she used during her tenure.
“We also are releasing a factual summary of the FBI’s investigation into this matter. We are making these materials available to the public in the interest of transparency and in response to numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Appropriate redactions have been made for classified information or other material exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Additional information related to this investigation that the FBI releases in the future will be placed on the Vault, the FBI’s electronic FOIA library.”