While FBI Director James Comey announced in a surprise press conference on Tuesday that he will recommend that charges not be filed against Hillary Clinton and her aides for mishandling classified information, the Obama appointee torched talking points that the former secretary of state has used in defense of her email practices.
Clinton talking point No. 1: Her emails were not classified
Clinton has in the past said that her emails were not classified when they were sent and received. Her campaign has also questioned the integrity of the Intelligence Community’s inspector general, which assessed last year that some of Clinton’s emails were classified at the “Top Secret” level when they were originated. (RELATED: Clinton Campaign Spokesman Questions Intel Community IG’s Integrity)
But Comey settled the question in decisive fashion on Tuesday, demolishing Clinton’s claims.
“From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received,” Comey said.
“Top Secret” information was contained in eight of those email chains. “Secret” information was in 36 chains, and eight held “confidential” information.
Clinton talking point No. 2: She returned all work-related emails
Comey said that Clinton failed to turn over “several thousand” work-related emails to the State Department in December 2014.The undermines the former secretary of state’s repeated assertion that she did turn over all such records.
“The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014,” Comey said, adding that the additional emails were recovered “in a variety of ways.”
Clinton has claimed that she was over-inclusive in deciding which emails to return to the State Department.
“In providing these emails to the Department, Clinton included all she had that were even potentially work-related—including emails about using a fax machine or asking for iced tea during a meeting — erring on the side of over-inclusion,” her campaign website reads.
Comey said that some of Clinton’s missing work emails had been deleted. Traces of those records were found on devices that Clinton used over the years. Others were recovered from archived records of other government employees’ email accounts. Still more were found in the form of email fragments dumped into what Comey called the “slack space” of the server that Clinton decommissioned after she left office in 2013.
Three of the work-related emails that Clinton failed to turn over to State contained classified information, according to Comey.
One contained “Secret” information and two held confidential information.
Comey did say that investigators found no evidence that those additional emails were “intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”
“Our assessment is that, like many e-mail users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails were purged from the system when devices were changed,” he said.
Clinton talking point No. 3: Classified emails were not “marked” classified
As evidence mounted last year that Clinton sent and received classified information, she adopted a new defense: the classified emails were not “marked” as such when Clinton sent and received them, she said.
“No information in Clinton’s emails was marked classified at the time she sent or received them,” Clinton says on her campaign website.
But Comey laid out the case that Clinton should have known that classified information was classified regardless of whether it was marked as such.
“Even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it,” he said.
Comey’s statement backs up the finding last year that Clinton signed a government form when she took office in which she acknowledged that there is no distinction between “marked” and “unmarked” classified information. (RELATED: Document Completely Undermines Clinton’s Classified Email Defense)
In fact, the FBI director hinted that some of Clinton’s emails contained classified markings.
“Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information,” he said.