- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch formally cleared Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, saying she would not pursue a criminal case against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for mishandling classified information through her secret email account when she was secretary of state.

Ms. Lynch said she was following the “unanimous” advice of FBI Director James B. Comey, his agents and career Justice Department prosecutors.

The announcement was made just a day after Mr. Comey laid out a hefty case against Mrs. Clinton, saying she may have violated secrecy laws, did traffic in classified information on her secret server and may well have been hacked by enemy agents. But Mr. Comey said he couldn’t see any other cases in which a successful prosecution was made, so he was recommending against bringing charges.

Ms. Lynch said that was good enough for her.

“I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, yearlong investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation,” she said in a statement.

The administration has quickly begun to circle the wagons around Mrs. Clinton, who campaigned Tuesday with President Obama.

SEE ALSO: FBI Director James Comey to testify to Congress on Clinton emails

Despite calls from leading Republicans on Capitol Hill, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mrs. Clinton will be able to get top-secret briefings from the intelligence community once she accepts the Democratic presidential nomination this month.

“We should leave those decisions in the hands of our intelligence professionals,” said Mr. Earnest. “They’ll provide the same information to both candidates.”

But Mrs. Clinton’s political woes from the email scandal seem far from over. Republicans said plenty of questions remain about the FBI’s investigation.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spent much of a campaign rally in Cincinnati on Wednesday comparing the FBI findings with what he called Mrs. Clinton’s “lies” about her email practices.

Lawmakers will get a chance to pose those questions Thursday, when Mr. Comey appears before a hastily arranged hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Ms. Lynch, meanwhile, is slated to testify next week.

Republicans said Mr. Comey should release the entire investigative file on Mrs. Clinton so voters have a chance to see the evidence against her. That includes the transcript of her interview with FBI agents this weekend.

“The American people would like to see what Hillary Clinton said to the FBI,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “There’s no particular penalty for lying to the public, unless the public gets tired of it, but there is a real penalty for lying to the FBI.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, hinted that the White House may not have the final word in deciding whether Mrs. Clinton can continue being cleared for security briefings.

“We’re not going to forgo any options,” he said when asked whether Congress might act on its own.

Weighty case

Republicans also said Ms. Lynch shouldn’t have been the final word on whether to prosecute Mrs. Clinton. They said she should have recused herself and named a special counsel to make the final decisions — particularly after it was revealed that she had a private meeting with Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, last week when their paths crossed at a Phoenix airport.

Mr. Comey made a weighty case against Mrs. Clinton in his press briefing, saying she was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information. He said his agents uncovered classified information she failed to return to the government even after prodded to give back her messages in 2014, nearly two years after she left office.

He also said it’s possible enemy agents hacked into her system. Her use of a nonsecure email system was widely known, and some of those with whom she exchanged messages were hacked, the FBI found. Many of the FBI’s findings directly contradicted statements Mrs. Clinton made in recent months in trying to explain her unusual private email system.

Still, Mr. Comey said he couldn’t make it stick in a court of law.

“Although there is evidence of potential violation of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said.

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who declined to make the email scandal an issue during his fierce primary battle with Mrs. Clinton, acknowledged that the FBI had exposed “serious problems” with Mrs. Clinton’s email practices, but also accused Republicans of overreach.

“I think what the FBI report said is there were serious problems, and that’s what the case was,” Mr. Sanders said Wednesday on CNN. “What we can be 100 percent assured of is the Republicans will politicize this issue and they will do everything they can to keep it in the papers.”

Republicans plan to make Mr. Comey defend his conclusions and will come armed with similar instances in which the FBI did make a case.

One of those cases concluded a year ago, with a Navy reservist striking a plea agreement admitting to taking a flash drive with classified information when he left Afghanistan.

In that case, as in the situation with Mrs. Clinton, investigators found no intent to leak the information to enemy agents — but Mr. Comey’s investigators made the case against the reservist, who pleaded to a misdemeanor charge.

Mr. Comey had said while a criminal case can’t be made against Mrs. Clinton, someone in her position could face administration sanctions or have security access denied.

Although the White House has said it won’t allow that to happen to Mrs. Clinton, the administration has been less clear about her top aides, whom Mr. Comey also cited for lax care in handling classified information.

“I’m not going to render any judgment on that,” Mr. Earnest said.

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