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FBI Docs: Clinton Says Concerns About Email Setup Never Reached Her

Hillary Clinton checks her phone after addressing the Security Council at the United Nations as secretary of state in 2012.
Richard Drew
Hillary Clinton checks her phone after addressing the Security Council at the United Nations as secretary of state in 2012.

Hillary Clinton told FBI investigators no one at the State Department raised concerns with her about using private email servers to conduct government business during her time as secretary of state.

Clinton repeatedly told investigators she relied on seasoned professionals at the department to ensure that classified information was handled properly. And she insisted her use of the private server was for convenience, not an attempt to evade Freedom of Information Act requests or government record-keeping laws.

Clinton's statements are detailed in a record of the July 2 interview released Friday by the FBI. (You can read that and the FBI's longer investigative report here.)

The bureau investigated Clinton's server use to determine whether classified information was illegally stored or distributed, and for any sign that hackers might have accessed information without authorization.

FBI Director James Comey previously described Clinton and her aides as "extremely careless" in their handling of sensitive information. But he recommended against pressing criminal charges against the Democratic presidential nominee, telling reporters "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case."

The notes and investigative report made public Friday offer a glimpse into the yearlong probe that led up to that recommendation. Clinton's interview, conducted at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., was one of the last steps in that process.

The interview notes, which are partially redacted, suggest some warnings were raised over Clinton's reliance on private servers, but they didn't reach the former secretary herself.

"CLINTON was not aware of State employee (redacted) expressing concerns CLINTON's email server was not compliant with the FRA," or Federal Records Act, the notes read.

FBI agents identified dozens of email chains containing classified information that were improperly transmitted to Clinton's unsecured server. During her interview, Clinton was shown some of those emails, but typically did not recall the details.

"CLINTON was not concerned the displayed email contained classified information," says a typical notation. "CLINTON relied on the judgment of the people that worked for her to handle the information appropriately."

When shown an email paragraph marked with a "C," Clinton told agents she didn't know that meant the paragraph was classified. Instead, she speculated that it was preceded by paragraphs marked "A" and "B."

Clinton was asked during the interview about an email from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also relied on a personal email account while in office.

"This email did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account," the FBI notes say.

Clinton, Powell and other former secretaries, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, were all asked in the fall of 2014 to turn over to the State Department any emails from their personal servers concerning government business. Clinton told investigators she "directed her legal team to assist in any way they could."

"CLINTON never deleted, nor did she instruct anyone to delete, her email to avoid complying with the Federal Records Act, FOIA, or State or FBI requests for information," the interview notes say.

The FBI did uncover several thousand work-related emails that Clinton failed to turn over. But Comey told reporters, "We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them."

Details of the FBI probe did little to mollify Clinton's critics, including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"These documents demonstrate Hillary Clinton's reckless and downright dangerous handling of classified information during her tenure as Secretary of State," Ryan said in a statement. "They also cast further doubt on the Justice Department's decision to avoid prosecuting what is a clear violation of the law. This is exactly why I have called for her to be denied access to classified information."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.