On Tuesday morning, FBI Director James Comey announced that the government will not file any formal charges against Hillary Clinton for using a personal email address during her tenure as Secretary of State. Comey called the mistake, which led to massive security breaches, “extremely careless,” but nevertheless, said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would level criminal charges in the case.
The email scandal bogged down Clinton’s campaign for president with months of headache, and while commentary on the FBI’s decision will surely continue, one reporter present at Comey’s speech put it best: “Welp, that’s it.”
Hillary’s not going to jail. If that leaves you thinking, “wait, what?” you’re not alone — but the Department of Justice has a clear reason for not indicting the former Secretary of State.
The most important thing to understand is precedent. When issuing a recommendation for Clinton, Comey said the FBI considered past cases where criminal charges had been filed for a similar crime. In all of those cases, the intent of the guilty party was different, and each criminal case also had some additional “plus factor” of sketchiness. As Politico reported in April, past cases with indictments included an FBI agent who was sleeping with a Chinese intelligence agent, then brought home highly classified files; a Boeing engineer who brought home 2,000 secret documents and then decided to travel to Israel; and a NSA official who, you guessed it, removed boxes of classified documents and also lied on a job application form.
Watch the most relevant part of Comey’s short speech:
The big line here is “especially regarding intent… responsible decisions [whether or not to prosecute] also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
In other words, Comey says Clinton was very, very stupid, and made a reckless or lazy mistake, but there’s no reasonable evidence that her disregard for national security was intended to harm the country. Which is probably good, seeing as she’s on track to be our next president, unless, y’know, the whole Trump thing happens.
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