In a press conference on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that despite “extreme carelessness” shown by Hillary Clinton in her use of a personal server to send email messages with classified information while she was Secretary of State, the Bureau would not recommend to the Justice Department that criminal charges be filed against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Comey said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Clinton given the evidence and the precedent set by similar past cases.
With Attorney General Loretta Lynch having said she would follow the recommendation of the FBI, this means that Clinton is almost certainly in the clear legally on the matter. Politically, though, this could be a serious problem for her campaign as the general election heats up.
If there is one thing that has plagued Clinton this campaign season, it is a lingering belief that she is not trustworthy. Donald Trump, her presumptive Republican opponent this fall, has taken to calling her “Crooked Hillary.” Even though Comey decided not to recommend that charges be brought against Clinton, the press conference he gave on Tuesday could be cut up into an attack ad that could drive home the Republican point that Clinton lacks good judgment.
Trump had already taken to Twitter to talk about the press conference.
Comey said that “any reasonable” person in Clinton’s position should have known that it was a bad idea to put classified information on her private server. He repeatedly noted that it wasn’t just that it was a non-government server, but also a non-commercial server. This means that there was no constant security over the messages kept on that server.
“None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system,” Comey said.
Legally, Clinton is in the clear. But American voters care about leadership and character when choosing a president. Clinton already faced a challenge convincing voters she was sufficient in these areas. Tuesday’s news doesn’t make it any easier to close that gap.