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Clinton email case 'was not a cliff-hanger,' Comey says

| Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, 9:18 p.m.
FBI Director James Comey said that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of emails, but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a criminal case.
FBI Director James Comey said that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of emails, but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a criminal case.

WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey told FBI employees Wednesday that the decision to forgo criminal charges in the Hillary Clinton email investigation was not a close call.

“At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn't a prosecutable case,” Comey wrote in an internal memo. “The hard part was whether to offer unprecedented transparency about our thinking.”

He also struck back against criticism that the FBI had intentionally timed its release of investigative documents related to the case last Friday, just ahead of the Labor Day weekend. Those documents included a summary of Clinton's July interview with the FBI about her private email server, as well as a detailed investigative summary of the case.

Comey said the documents were made public as soon as they had been cleared for release, were processed under the Freedom of Information Act and had received the “necessary sign-offs from other agencies with interest in the information.”

“I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us. We don't play games,” Comey said.

The FBI is continuing to process additional documents and more will be released, “no matter the day of the week,” he added.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, was first reported by CNN. The FBI declined to release a copy publicly.

Comey in July announced the FBI's recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton and her aides following a yearlong investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information on the private email server she used as secretary of State.

Rather than quieting critics, though, the document releases served to fuel criticism. Republican legislators first complained that the materials were turned over to them in such a way that they could be reviewed only in a secure area by staffers with appropriate clearances, even though many of the documents were unclassified. And when a small fraction of the documents were made public Friday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it was not a good example of transparency.

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