The FBI today released a detailed report on its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, as well as what appears to be a summary of her interview with agents, providing the most thorough look yet at the probe that has dogged the campaign of the Democratic presidential nominee.
The documents released total 58 pages, though large portions and sometimes entire pages are redacted.
FBI Director James Comey announced in July that his agency would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server. Comey said that Clinton and her staffers were “extremely careless” in how they treated classified information, but investigators did not find they intended to mishandle such material. Nor did investigators uncover exacerbating factors – like efforts to obstruct justice – that often lead to charges in similar cases, Comey said.
The FBI turned over to several Congressional committees documents related to the probe and required they only be viewed by those with appropriate security clearances, even though not all of the material was classified, legislators and their staffers have said.
Those documents included an investigative report and summaries of interviews with more than a dozen senior Clinton staffers, other State Department officials, former secretary of state Colin Powell and at least one other person. The documents released Friday appear to be but a fraction of those.
Comey’s announcement in July offered unusual transparency into how the FBI handled the case, and he later answered questions about the matter for nearly five hours during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
People on both sides of the political aisle have criticized Comey for his blunt assessment of Clinton’s conduct and unusual release of materials to Congress. Republicans have said the bureau made inspection of them unnecessarily difficult by inappropriately mingling classified documents with non-classified ones. Democrats have said making the documents available at all – especially the summaries of witness statements – sets a bad precedent and might discourage future witnesses from sitting for voluntary interviews with agents.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon has said turning over the documents was “an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI.” But he has said if the material were going to be shared outside the Justice Department, “they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.”
Though Fallon seems to have gotten his wish, the public release of the documents will undoubtedly draw more attention to a topic that seems to have fueled negative perceptions of Clinton. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found 41 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of Clinton, while 56 percent had an unfavorable one.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky