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Clinton Rebuts FBI Charge of Recklessness

Hillary Clinton dismissed the FBI’s claims that she was reckless on Friday in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“I think the professionals with whom I communicated were very careful about how they handled classified material — as I was over the course of those four years,” the former secretary of State said on CNN’s “The Lead.”

“I do not believe that all of the professionals that I dealt with in the State Department were careless in handling classified material,” she added moments later, in a separate interview with Lester Holt on MSNBC.

The Hill reports:

The position is a striking rebuttal of Comey’s statements. He twice this week called her behavior “extremely careless,” even while asserting it did not violate the law.

“Certainly, she should have known not to send classified information,” Comey testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday.

“I think she was extremely careless. I think she was negligent. That, I could establish,” he added. “What we can’t establish is that she acted with the necessary criminal intent.”

In her interviews, Clinton referred to “over 300 people” she communicated with via email, including longtime diplomats and government officials.

“I do not believe that they did anything that they believed was in any way inappropriate,” she said on MSNBC.

“Other agencies have said maybe they should have known at the time, but these are professionals … they were doing the best job they could. They were not careless. The material they sent to me they did not believe was classified.”

According to Comey, at least 113 email messages Clinton sent or received through her controversial private email setup contained information that was classified at the time it was sent — including eight email threads with information at the highest level of top secret.

An additional 2,000 emails contained information that was upgraded to classified after the fact.

Clinton might be staring down the barrel of a new criminal investigation for lying under oath to Congress. House Republicans have promised to refer questions about Clinton’s truthfulness to the FBI, noting that comments she made during a congressional hearing last year appeared to conflict with the FBI’s conclusions.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) blasted Clinton after the interviews, accusing her of continuing to lie.

“Even now, Hillary Clinton is unwilling to tell the American people the truth about her illicit email server that broke the rules and put national security at risk,” RNC spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.

“The only thing Hillary Clinton seems to be clarifying is that she is determined to continue misleading voters and obfuscating the facts about her reckless conduct as secretary of state.”
Her repeated insistence on Friday that other officials believed the material was not classified suggests a defense strategy for Clinton following her escape from the legal gauntlet this week. If officials throughout the State Department believed that the information was not classified, Clinton can reasonably say she didn’t know, either.

None of the emails in Clinton’s inbox was properly marked as classified; however, the FBI has found at least three messages with partial markings suggesting that some of the material was sensitive. But those markings were incomplete, and Clinton may not have been technically “sophisticated” enough to properly interpret them, Comey said Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the FBI director said that someone of Clinton’s experience nonetheless “should have known” not to have discussions about sensitive matters on an unclassified email system.

In her interview with MSNBC, Clinton also insisted that there was “no evidence” that her machine had been accessed by hackers.

But the FBI said only that it found no evidence of a breach. Comey noted that intruders could have simply gone undetected, given the sophistication of foreign spies and the general lack of mindfulness Clinton appeared to show toward cybersecurity.

“We assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account,” he said at the FBI headquarters Tuesday.

Clinton addressed the matter for the first time on the heels of violence in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas that has dominated the news cycle and put a spotlight back on police shootings of African-Americans. The timing of her interviews — late on a Friday afternoon — allowed her response to the email controversy to be buried by the fallout from the violence.

Clinton told CNN she was “relieved” that the federal investigation was over after nearly a year.

Clinton “greatly appreciated” the work of the FBI and Justice Department, she added, while repeating that her use of a private email server was “a mistake.”

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

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