FBI interviews Hillary Clinton on private email server

July 3, 2016 4:38 am

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

The FBI has interviewed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton about her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
“Secretary Clinton gave a voluntary interview this morning (Saturday) about her email arrangements while she was secretary,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.
“She is pleased to have had the opportunity to assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a conclusion. Out of respect for the investigative process, she will not comment further on her interview,” Merrill added.
Her interview with the FBI, which lasted three and a half hours in Washington, could intensify anxiety among Democrats that she might be indicted before the November elections.
“Timing of FBI interview, between primaries and convention, probably good timing for @HillaryClinton,” tweeted David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama who worked as the chief strategist for his two presidential campaigns. “Best to get it behind her.”
Clinton is expected to be formally nominated as the party’s presidential candidate during the Democratic National Convention in the following weeks.
However, her use of a personal email to conduct State Department business has negatively affected her campaign, with her Republican rival Donald Trump saying that she should face “criminal charges.”
“It is impossible for the FBI not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. What she did was wrong! What Bill did was stupid!” Trump tweeted.
Trump was referring to a private meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton ahead of his wife’s interview with the FBI.
On Friday, Lynch acknowledged that her meeting with Clinton’s husband was a mistake that had cast a shadow over the email investigation.
Clinton has already apologized for using a private email account and server from 2009 to 2013, but her critics argue the former secretary of state’s violations of regulatory protocol amount to a prosecutable crime.
FBI investigators have interviewed several of Clinton aides, including her deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, and former chief of staff Cheryl Mills.

FBI agents interviewed Hillary Clinton for 3 1/2 hours today – a
signal that the investigation into her use of a private email account
while she was US Secretary of State is drawing to a close.
Clinton
campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said that Clinton “gave a voluntary
interview this morning about her email arrangements while she was
Secretary,” and added, “She is pleased to have had the opportunity to
assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a
conclusion”.
Asked if the interview was businesslike and civil, Clinton told MSNBC that it was “both”.
The
investigation is not over: Agents and prosecutors will now have to
compare what the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said to
other evidence they have gathered, including from interviews with
Clinton’s aides. They will also have to analyse how the facts of the
case apply to various laws that might have been violated.

But officials familiar with the probe and legal analysts have
said a meeting with Clinton would be reserved for the end of the
investigation.
“That’s certainly a signal that they’re wrapping
things up,” said Justin Shur, a former deputy chief of the Justice
Department’s public integrity section who is now in private practice at
the MoloLamken firm.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to
comment, and Merrill said that Clinton would not comment further on her
interview, which took place at FBI headquarters, “out of respect for the
investigative process”.
The past week has been tumultuous for
Clinton and the Government’s investigation into whether her email system
might have compromised classified information. On Tuesday, former
President Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting with US Attorney-General
Loretta Lynch on board Lynch’s plane at an airport in Phoenix. Lynch
asserted they did not discuss any pending investigations, but the
conversation sparked an uproar – with some Republicans and Clinton
rivals calling for a third party to be appointed to handle the case.
On Saturday, Lynch announced that she would accept
recommendations from career prosecutors and FBI agents leading the probe
– a decision that she said had been made before her meeting with Bill
Clinton, but one that was surely meant to quiet criticism about the
independence of the probe. While Lynch did not formally recuse herself
from the investigation involving Hillary Clinton’s email – saying that
“would mean I wouldn’t even be briefed on what the findings were” – she
seemed to promise she would not veto whatever decision came from federal
prosecutors handling the case. It is not clear who precisely
will be the ultimate decision-maker, if Lynch will serve as more of a
rubber stamp. The Attorney-General said FBI Director James Comey would
be among those involved.
The investigation is focused on whether
classified information was mishandled because Clinton used a private
email account when she was Secretary of State. The State Department’s
inspector general has already issued a report highly critical of
Clinton’s email practices, asserting that she failed to seek legal
approval to use a private server and that staffers would not have
assented if they were asked. The inspector general also found that
Clinton’s email setup was “not an appropriate method” for preserving
public records.
A Washington Post analysis of Clinton’s
publicly released correspondence found that Clinton wrote 104 emails
that she sent using her private server while Secretary of State that the
Government has since said contained classified information.
But
the review also found that using non-secure email systems to send
sensitive information was widespread at the department and elsewhere in
government and that Clinton’s publicly released correspondence included
classified emails written by about 300 other people inside and outside
the government.
People familiar with the case have said
previously that charges against Clinton seemed unlikely and that there
was a particular void of evidence showing she intended to mishandle
classified information, although they asserted investigators were still
probing the matter aggressively.
The interview with Clinton was
always seen as critical. If the former Secretary was untruthful with
investigators, she could be charged with making false statements. That
charge was contemplated in the case against retired Army general and
former CIA Director David Petraeus, although he ultimately pleaded
guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.
With
the Republican and Democratic conventions looming later this month,
timing has also become a complicating factor. Justice Department
guidelines specifically warn prosecutors against selecting the timing of
investigative steps for the purpose of affecting an election or helping
a particular candidate or party.

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