Hillary Clinton told federal agents and prosecutors that she did not recall receiving any emails that were too secretive to be handled by her private computer server and did not believe any of her devices had been hacked or compromised, according to FBI records released Friday.
The former secretary of State reiterated earlier comments that she decided to use a single private email address to send personal and work correspondence as “a matter of convenience” and was not seeking to avoid having to comply with open records laws, according to an FBI summary of a three-hour interview with agents and prosecutors on July 2.
The Democratic presidential nominee added that she relied on her staff — three of her closest aides were responsible for the vast majority of her work-related correspondence — and career diplomats to filter out secret information before it reached her unclassified email account.
She pushed back when pressed by agents about specific emails containing classified material, saying she was not concerned that the information was sensitive or should have been deemed classified.
During its investigation, the FBI determined that 110 emails contained material that should have been sent only on a classified system, even though they was not marked as such at the time. Another three emails included markings to indicate they contained classified information.
Clinton even defended an email chain involving discussion of a possible U.S. drone strike, despite the fact that the program is covert. “Clinton stated deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification,” the report states. “Clinton understood this type of conversation as part of the routine deliberation process.”
The 11-page interview summary and 47-page FBI report, which uncovered no evidence that Clinton’s emails had been hacked or that she broke the law, were released Friday by the bureau in response to a number of Freedom of Information Act requests.
In July, the Justice Department declined to file charges in the case, following the recommendation of FBI Director James B. Comey. The director told reporters that although Clinton had been "extremely careless" in her use of a private email account, there was no “clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.”
The partially redacted reports contained no bombshell disclosures, though they provided details of the FBI’s yearlong probe into Clinton’s controversial use of a private email server while she served as the nation’s top diplomat. The release provided another vivid example of how the email scandal will probably continue to dog the Clinton campaign until election day and beyond.
Clinton remains saddled with dismal approval ratings and uneasiness among the electorate about her trustworthiness. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last month, 59% of those surveyed said they find Clinton to be not honest and trustworthy.
Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, has hammered such points with voters, and the FBI reports immediately provided the business mogul with more ammunition to raise questions about the former first lady’s integrity.
“Hillary Clinton is applying for a job that begins each day with a top secret intelligence briefing, and the notes from her FBI interview reinforce her tremendously bad judgment and dishonesty,” said Jason Miller, a senior communications advisor on the Trump campaign, in a statement issued soon after the FBI posted the documents online. “Clinton’s secret email server was an end-run around government transparency laws that wound up jeopardizing our national security and sensitive diplomatic efforts.”
The Clinton campaign said in a statement that it was pleased that the FBI released the records. “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,” the campaign said.
The release of the FBI report will not be the last disclosure in the email scandal. During its investigation, the bureau uncovered thousands of work-related emails that Clinton had not previously turned over, because her lawyers ascertained they were personal. The State Department is expected to release that trove of correspondence in the coming weeks.
Some of those emails involve the State Department’s response to the 2012 terror attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, which Republicans accuse Clinton and the Obama administration of botching and trying to downplay.
At the State Department’s request, Clinton directed her lawyers in 2014 to cull through about 60,000 emails to determine which ones were work-related and should be handed over to the State Department. They gave about 30,000 emails to the State Department and FBI, and deleted the rest.
In its analysis of her server and other computers, the FBI uncovered an additional 17,488 work-related and personal emails that had not been turned over to the bureau. It has turned work-related ones over to the State Department.
The report disclosed that Clinton was involved in at least 81 email chains containing classified material. Of those, 68 remain classified and eight of those contain information labeled as top secret, the highest level of classification, the report says.
The nature of the classified emails were not revealed, though a number of them dealt with planning of drone strikes and their aftermath.
The records portray Clinton and her staff as somewhat unsophisticated with technology and the workings of the server, which was first stored in the basement of her house in New York and later at a computer facility in New Jersey.
For example, Clinton told FBI agents that she thought a marking used to indicate that certain information in a paragraph was classified — a letter “c” in parentheses — was simply referencing a paragraph in alphabetical order.
The report raised questions about whether Clinton’s email account had been targeted by foreign adversaries and concluded that hackers had sent her “multiple” emails containing malware that would have allowed them to possibly take over her system.
One such email included a link that would have infected her computer and sent information to computers overseas, including one in Russia. The FBI also noted that hackers had infiltrated accounts used by those who communicated with the secretary of State.
Agents, however, said it was difficult to determine whether accounts were compromised because they were not able to examine the 11 mobile devices used by Clinton during her time as secretary of State or some other computers and components. The devices were either destroyed or could not be tracked down.