Hillary Clinton Was 'Extremely Careless' About Emails, FBI Says

FBI Director James Comey discusses his agency's year-long investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.
26:51 | 07/05/16

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Transcript for Hillary Clinton Was 'Extremely Careless' About Emails, FBI Says
This is an ABC news special were. Now reported. George Stephanopoulos. And we are coming on the air right now because the FBI director James comb is about to give a statement to the press in Washington DC of course the statement comes just three days. After Hillary Clinton spent three and a half hours with the FBI answering questions about. Whether she mishandled classified information on her private email server. In the state part of course is been a hot issue in the center. Of the presidential campaign the big question will Hillary Clinton be indicted for mishandling classified information or after this several months long investigation. By the FBI. Will she be cleared of any charges only the straight to our senior US correspondent Pierre Thomas who's in Washington this press conference being held. The corps press statement pretty and usual appear Nolan seems to know what's going on here. Highly unusual we don't yet know about. What this is about officially. The FBI director does not hold impromptu press conferences like this very often if if at all. And clearly they wanted to keep this a secret because no leaks have come out about this extraordinary we usually know if it's about terrorism we get some kind of got us. In this case doors they told us nothing. And the attorney general Loretta Lynn stood facing some questions after that meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac last week has said she will accept. Any recommendation on this email matter from the FBI director James combing and the career prosecutors right now. As we see someone coming through that door right now expected to be. Mr. Conley there he is. The FBI director James called. Good morning. I'm here to give you an update on the FBI's investigation. Of secretary Clinton's use of personal email system during her time as secretary of state. After a tremendous amount of work over the last year. The FBI is completing its investigation. And referring the matter to the Department of Justice for a prosecutor's decision. What I wanna do today is three things I want to tell you what we did I want to tell you what we found I don't want to tell you what we're recommending to the Department of Justice. This is going to be an unusual statement in at least a couple of ways first I'm gonna include more detail about our process than it ordinarily would. Because I think the American people deserve those details in the case of intense public interest. And second. I have not coordinated the statement reviewed it in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I'm about to say. But I want to start by thanking the FBI employees who did remarkable work in this case. Once you have a better sense of how much we have done you'll understand why I am so grateful and so proud of their work. So first. What we have done. This investigation began as a referral from the intelligence community inspector general. In connection with secretary Clinton's use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state. The referral focused on whether classified information was transmitted on their personal system. Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence. The classified information was improperly stored. Or transmitted on their personal system. In violation of a federal statute that makes it a felony to mishandled classified information. Either intentionally. Or any grossly negligent way. Or second statute. Making it a misdemeanor to knowingly removed classified information. From appropriate systems or storage facilities. And consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities. We have also investigated to determine. If there is evidence of computer intrusion. By nation states or by hostile actors of any kind. Now I have so far used the singular term email server in describing the referral to begin our investigation. It turns out to have been more complicated than that. Secretary Clinton used several different servers. And administrators are those servers during her four years at the State Department. And she also used numerous mobile devices to send and to read email on their personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed older servers were taken out of service stored and decommissioned in various ways. Piecing all of that back together to gain as full understanding as possible of the ways in which personal email was used for government work. Has been a pain staking undertaking. Requiring thousands of hours of effort. For example. When one of secretary Clinton's servers was decommissioned in 2013. The email software it was removed. That didn't remove the email contact. But it was like removing the frame from a huge unfinished jigsaw puzzle. And then dumping all the pieces on the floor. The effect was that millions of email fragments ended up in the servers unused or slacks space. We searched through all of it to understand what was there and what parts of the puzzle we can put back together again. FBI investigators also red ball. Of the approximately 30000 emails that Secretary Clinton provided to the State Department in 2014. We're email was assessed as possibly containing classified information. The FBI referred that email to any government agency that might be an owner of that information. So that agency could make a determination as to whether the email contained classified information. At the time it was sent or received. Or whether there was reason to classify it now even if the content had not been classified. When it was first and to receive. And that's the process sometimes referred to as up classified. From the group of 30000 emails returned to the State Department in 2014. 100 in ten emails. In 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information. At the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was top secret at the time they were sent. 36 of those chains contained secret information at the time. And they contained confidential information at the time that's the lowest level of classification. Separate from those. About 2000 additional emails. Were up classified to make them confidential. Those emails had not been classified at the time that they were sent to receive. The FBI also discovered several thousand work related emails that were not a Hmong. The group of 30000 emails returned by Secretary Clinton to stay in 2014. We found those emails in a variety of ways some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them. On servers or devices that have been connected to the private email domain. Others we found are reviewing the archive government accounts of people who have been in government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton. Including high ranking officials at other agencies. Folks with whom a secretary of state might normally correspond. This helped us recover were related emails that were not among the 30000 that were produced a state. Still others we recovered from that painstaking review of the millions of email fragments. Dumped into the slack space of the server it was decommissioned in 2013. With respect to the thousands of emails we found that were not among those produced to the State Department. Agencies have concluded that three of those were classified at the time there were sent or received one of the secret level and two at the confidential. There were no additional top secret emails found and finally none of those we found have since been up classified. I should add here that we found no evidence that any of the additional work related emails were intentionally deleted. In an effort to conceal them in some way. Our assessment is that like many email users. Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails. Or emails were purged from her system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account. Or even a commercial account like Gmail. There was no archiving at all of her emails so it's not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton system. In 2014. When she produce those 30000 some emails to state. It could also be that some of the additional work related emails that we've recovered. Were among those deleted as personal by her lawyers. When they reviewed and sort of her emails for production in late 2014. Lawyers during the sorting for Secretary Clinton. In 2014 did not individually read the content of all for emails as we did for those available to us. Instead they relied on header information. And the use search terms to try to find all work related emails among the reportedly more than 60000. That were remaining on her system at the end of 2014. It's highly likely. That their search missed some work related emails and that we later found for example in the mailboxes of other officials. Or in the slack space observer. It's also likely that there are other work related emails that they did not produce to state and that we did not find elsewhere and that are now wrong. Because they deleted all emails they did not produce the state. And the lawyers then clean their devices in such a way as to for clues complete forensic recovery. We have conducted interviews and done technical examination. To attempt to understand. Exactly how that sorting was done by her turns. Although we don't have complete visibility because we're not able to fully reconstruct the electronic record of that sorting. We believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence. There was no intentional misconduct. In connection with that sorting effort. And of course in addition to our technical work we interviewed many people. From those involved in setting up the personal email system and maintaining the various iterations. Of Secretary Clinton server. To staff members of whom she corresponded by email to those involved in the email production to state and finally Secretary Clinton herself. Last we have done extensive work to try to understand what indications there might be of compromised by hostile actors. In connection with that personal email system. So that's what we've done now let me tell you what we found. Although we do not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing. Handling of classified information. There is evidence that they were extremely careless. In their handling a very sensitive highly classified information. For example. Seven email chains concerned matters that. Are classified at the top secret special access program at the time they were sent and received. Those chains involve Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion. That any reasonable person in secretary Clinton's position. Or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about those matters. Should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information we also found information that was properly classified as secret by the US intelligence community. At the time it was discussed an email that is excluding any later opt classified emails. None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system. But their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails. We're housed an unclassified personal servers. Not even supported by full time security staff. Like those found that agencies and departments of the United States government or even with a commercial email service like Gmail. I think it's also important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the emails here containing classified information bore markings that indicated the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked classified in an email. Participants who know or should know that this subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect. And while not the focus of our investigation we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department. In general. And with respect to the use of unclassified systems in particular. Was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information that's found elsewhere in US government. With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors. We did not find direct evidence that secretary Clinton's personal email domain. In its various configurations in 2009. Was hacked successfully. But given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved we assess we will be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts. But people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess. That secretary Clinton's use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States including. Sending and receiving work related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors. We assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to secretary Clinton's personal email account. So that's what we found. Filing with respect to our recommendation to the Department of Justice. In our system the prosecutors make the decisions. About whether charges are appropriate based on evidence that the FBI helped collect. Although we don't normally make public our recommendations to the prosecutors we frequently make recommendations. And engage in productive conversations with prosecutors. About what resolution may be appropriate given the evidence. In this case given the importance of the matter I think than usual transparencies in order. Although there is evidence of potential violations. Of the statutes regarding the handling a plus but information. Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before deciding whether to bring charges they're obvious considerations like the strength of the evidence. Especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person's actions and how similar situations have been handled in the past. In looking back at our investigations. Into the mishandling or removal of class of information. We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of prosper information. Or vast quantities of information. Exposed in such a way as to sporting inference of intentional misconduct. Or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice we do not see those things here. To be clear. This is not to suggest that in similar circumstances a person engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary. Those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions but that's not what we're deciding now. As a result. Although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this we are expressing to justice our view. That no charges are appropriate in this case. I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation as there was throughout the investigation. What I can assure the American people. Is that this investigation was done honestly confidently and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear. I know there are many opinions expressed by people who are not part of investigation including people in government. But none of that mattered to us opinions are irrelevant. And they were all fully informed by inciting to our investigation because we did our investigation the right way. Only facts matter. In the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical. And professional way. I couldn't be prouder to be part of this organization. Thank you very much. And there you have it from the FBI director James combing he has recommending to the Justice Department that no charges be brought in the matter of Hillary Clinton's private email server whether or not she mishandled classified information. On that server he says that he cannot find a case where this would be appropriate believes that no reasonable prosecutor would do that in this case. He also tells the American people are saying that he's been very transparent. In this decision making what they found in order to help convince people this was done honestly confidently and independently one of the straight. To our justice correspondent Pierre Thomas right there huge decision. Extraordinary decision. The FBI director making clear no charges should be found but he went. A long way in making the case that the Clinton administration. In terms of the State Department was lax in how they handled. Of the classified information that there were in fact certain certain classified top secret information that was sent and received and also that. The of officials involved in it should have known that this information was classified and therefore not be sending it. But the bottom line is they do look at precedent and they found no case like it would prosecute would have went forward. And they did not believe that the Justice Department would have gone forward and the FBI director again. Was extraordinary in terms of making clear the process. He wanted people to know the process exactly what they did and how they did it George in order so that people would know would be independent but he acknowledged there will be great debate about whether this was the appropriate decision. There's certainly will be a lot of debate about that here comes in or bring that to Jonathan Karl because Jonathan Karl. This funny of the FBI that in many cases Secretary Clinton and her team were extremely careless. In handling emails found that several thousand. Emails that have been deleted work related emails actually had been deleted. Even though he said that was not intentionally done that will provide a lot of fodder for secretary Clinton's critics as well also finding. That several emails a 110. Emails were considered classified contain classified information. At the time they were sent. Yes and eight of those George were at the top secret classification. Look I think. It was here that think headliner there is no indictment here no indictment of Hillary Clinton's don't like being on any of her top aide no indictment of anybody in this case. But this is Unix this is quite reprimand. A horror and appreciate handled this why the FBI director to hear the FBI literature use of phrase. Like extremely careless saying this was extremely careless. To handle information like this in such a it in a way to could be accessed by hot black perceived as it is possible. Other hostile actors gave access to Hillary Clinton served worldly and covered know if it's. On the data directly happens what you said that any reasonable person. Should have known that the information that was being exchanged was extremely sensitive was classified ads would not have been handled. In this way. That is the that's quite not an indictment but certainly it will reprimand and he's torn worn out from the FBI. A lot of criticism I guess we see Secretary Clinton now right in front of that's alive that right now educators in Washington DC have not heard yet from Donald Trump for his campaign by the London time llamas who covers. His campaign. Donald Trump critics again said there would not do the indictment that is as Jonathan Karl just indicated. This report from the FBI director does give Donald Trump a lot to criticize. That's right Jordan you can expect to trump campaign to be right now working on an attack at a Hillary Clinton's worst picture that news conference. We're director for many issues extremely careless. It will make that added it would warrant and will run again and I'm sure adults hopeful also miscues conference as well. They also goes along oak alerted mention of his argument system this week. Picture was not going to be prosecute a report corrections to that news conference that would damaging his Secretary Clinton and there's no death adults of the Philippines on those. To make the argument that was in you can criticize Mike temperament and outlook but the director get ya like. That about you're handling it don't work ethic and the government. I think that's actually do it let's go to our political analyst Matthew Dowd for more on this bottom line. Matt how damaging. I think it's damaging immediate interest being simultaneously freeing and damaging in the course of that it's. This is going to be dropped in the midst as you know George in the so that the fight has polarized environment. We're Democrats and supporters of Hillary. We're gonna celebrate this saint see nothing was done wrong but Republican controlled supporters in the state seat she did a whole bunch wrong and that's I think going to be the conversation ever. I think this is a momentous date you have some of these in the course of these presidential race it's were racist if it. This is one of those days in each side has some amount of evidence to make their conclusions accurate. Cokie Roberts who has more powerful argument. I think this is a very hard day for Hillary Clinton it was extraordinary autonomous extraordinary things I've seen in lol my many years in Washington the FBI director coming out. And read news basically. Charges even though doesn't think they should be criminally charged and saying that the beginning. No one in government knows what I am about to say. That is extremely extraordinary her judgment has been called into doubt. The idea that she was in hostile territory and using a private email server. An of course Republicans won't believe it ever. That Loretta lynch was not involved in this decision even though she said she last that the attorney general so I think this is a very hard day for Hillary Clinton hard Dave. Another bottom line something she did desperately wanted his guerrilla chief investigative correspondent. Brian Ross and brightest thing to see the yet they ordered to go through such painstaking detail. The work they did on this investigation is extraordinary a yearlong effort he called it essentially it was a non criminal indictment. Has everything but a charge. It funny that no such case paralleled. He said the facts that they'll regional prosecutor would bring charges against terror he still up the Department of Justice but at this point. This recommendation will carry obviously the great weight and likely bring any charges but. The fact they went through so many emails found millions of fragments and servers. Scattered across and found also this lax. A security culture at the State Department which apparently led to these as issues. With they found that hostile actors likely gained access her email is in some ways that was a news it was the most chilling one emotionally parts of the press conference talking about Esther -- was using her mobile devices. In areas where would the local real easy. For hostile actors to compromise has the right and we certainly know that in Russia and other places they work hard to compromise the electronic communications of American leaders and they again and again he said. Knew or should have known this danger seemed to ignore orders since he's what he's saying it is an indictment of the source without a criminal charge. Pierre Thomas you've been covering James combing the just farmers for a long time. You could almost see him. Pained as well towards the end oh by the idea that he would not be seen as an honest broker in this. In this matter. Well clearly the FBI director Louis super concerned about the integrity of the building behind me FBI quick headquarters. He wanted people to know that this was done above. Board the right way. So the point now one thing that's very interesting about this Stewart the situation there's been a ongoing sort of cultural war between the intelligence community and the statement by. The intelligence community as long bid believe that people at the State Department were lax and how they have a classified information State Department officials thought that FBI and other officials were too draconian and awaited look at these matters so at the end of the day which we essentially have the FBI director of doing is saying look. How you've been conducting business over there in the past is not good enough and you're gonna have to improve and that's one of the messages that they wanted to say. And John Carr you cover the white house of course as well President Obama campaigning with Hillary Clinton later today in in north. Carolina and one level even those that this report is kind of damning. The announcement of no indictment before that first joint campaign stop between two had a clears the decks for him as well. At the time he's so extraordinary here Georgian they did you can of air force Warren. On the tarmac ready to take them down to this this source skip the appearance together. I'll put it. Whole process has been a cloud hanging over their head coach Hillary Clinton and her campaign so not cloud is lifted. But as we've pointed out. We did just that there's. So what. Back here for Hillary Clinton but ultimately when they get the on this in order the possibility. Of an indictment how remote a possibility may have been it was a possibility. It was always there. And now lives don't do you have any more concerned are possible conflicts of interest. Well of course the president can beat. You know preach you you have to weigh in on this campaign. Which were. So certainly a big cloud lifted but put loudly what a or what what a statement there can be I like to wait sign put an indictment without an actual criminal indictment and this was a tough statement. Very tough statement from the FBI director but the bottom line you've had no means were prosecuted this case it will not be an indictment. Of Hillary Clinton. Recommendation by the FBI that what is going to the Justice Department right now a huge day. In this presidential campaigning at the latest anytime an abcnews.com for now in return to our regular programming. For many that is Good Morning America and we'll have a full wrap up tonight on world news I'm for Stephanopoulos and you'll. This has been a special.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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