- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2016

The FBI cleared Hillary Clinton for a second time Sunday, saying it hasn’t found anything in the latest emails obtained from Huma Abedin’s laptop to change the findings from this summer that the former secretary of state was reckless with classified information but couldn’t be prosecuted for it.

FBI Director James B. Comey, in a brief letter to Congress, said his agents have gone through all of the messages sent or received by Mrs. Clinton during her four-year tenure in the State Department that were on Ms. Abedin’s laptop.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” Mr. Comey said.

The letter reverberated across the campaign trail, with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump still insisting that Mrs. Clinton engaged in illegal behavior.

“You have to understand it is a rigged system and she’s protected,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in an airplane hangar minutes after the Comey letter was made public.

Later, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the letter did not clear Mrs. Clinton of wrongdoing.

SEE ALSO: Clinton campaign on Comey announcement: We’re moving on

“Director Comey says it doesn’t change anything. It certainly doesn’t change anything from what we already know,” she told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “Nothing changes the fact that she has been very reckless and careless with security information and this disqualifies her.”

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, said the letter was an exoneration.

“We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited. Now Director Comey has confirmed it,” spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter.

At a rally with NBA star LeBron James in Cleveland, Mrs. Clinton did not mention the latest turn in the FBI investigation. Her campaign staff traveling with her, however, appeared to be ecstatic over the news.

In July, Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” with top-secret information and may have had her secret email server hacked by foreign governments. But he said she was so inept that no prosecutor could show she intentionally risked national security — undercutting the chances of a criminal case.

This fall, FBI agents looking into sexting accusations against Ms. Abedin’s estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, came across emails on a computer that the spouses shared. There was enough concern about the messages to prompt Mr. Comey to renew his probe.

In clearing Mrs. Clinton again, the FBI director gave no details about the search or what his agents found among the more than 600,000 messages they reportedly recovered from the computer.

Mr. Comey did say agents checked through all of the messages that could have involved Mrs. Clinton during her time in the State Department and that none of those messages changed the assessment announced in July after a yearlong investigation.

The director faced intense pressure after announcing late last month that he was renewing the probe, and Democrats from President Obama down said the FBI had goofed by stepping in with such a vague announcement in the days before an election.

Sunday’s correction was seen by Democrats as a belated, though important, move.

“While the original letter should never have been sent so close to an election, the expeditious review of these emails should put to rest — once and for all — the irresponsible speculation indulged in by the Trump campaign and others,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Voters can now make their decision based on the merits, and that decision should be simple: It is the choice between a woman superbly qualified to be commander in chief and a man patently unfit for office.”

But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said nothing changes the FBI’s original finding that Mrs. Clinton risked national security with her unique email practices.

“She simply believes she’s above the law and always plays by her own rules,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again. Let’s bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday.”

It was unclear how much the FBI’s reopening of the case affected the presidential contest.

Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, was gaining in polls before the announcement, and that trend continued. Still, Mrs. Clinton has maintained her lead in nearly every national poll in the past two months.

But Mrs. Clinton’s decision to use a secret email, effectively thwarting open-records laws and putting secret information at risk, has been damaging, creating a massive trust deficit, according to polls.

The messages, which the State Department is slowly releasing, will continue to trickle out even after the election and could extend even into a Clinton presidency.

The latest set, released Friday, contained two newly classified messages and showed that the former secretary emailed now-classified material to her daughter and to personal help who were not cleared to view such information.

Mrs. Clinton’s team says the documents weren’t marked classified at the time, though the FBI says that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t secret and shouldn’t have been protected.

Mrs. Clinton says she trusted her aides to decide what was classified, and when they sent her information without markings, she figured she could pass it along.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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