The FBI report on its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail use gives Donald Trump and other Republicans a new opportunity and more tools to chip away at the Democratic nominee’s core argument to voters: competence and experience.
While there were no startling revelations in the 58 pages of material released by the agency on Friday, the FBI summaries give heft and context to Director James Comey’s assessment that the former secretary of state had been “extremely careless” in handling sensitive government communications.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s release of the heavily redacted investigative summary and a July 2 interview with Clinton were quickly seized upon by Trump and Republicans.
“Hillary Clinton’s answers to the FBI about her private email server defy belief,” Trump said in a statement. “After reading these documents, I really don’t understand how she was able to get away from prosecution.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’s called for Clinton to be stripped of any security clearance, said the FBI documents show Clinton’s “reckless and downright dangerous handling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.”
Clinton Used Eight BlackBerrys, but FBI Couldn’t Get Them
Clinton avoided the worst potential outcome of the investigation when the FBI closed the probe in July and recommended she not be prosecuted. But she was left with a lingering wound. As Clinton spent much of the past two weeks courting donors rather than voters, a steady drip of stories about her e-mails and the Clinton Foundation -- and concurrent attacks by Trump -- took a toll on her campaign for the White House.
Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls has narrowed to 4 percentage points from 6 in that period, and her popularity has slumped as well. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Aug. 24-28, 59 percent of registered voters viewed her unfavorably, a 7-point increase from early August. That about matches Trump’s 60 percent unfavorable rating, levels that are unprecedented for major-party presidential candidates.
The FBI documents -- released under pressure of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits -- assure that Clinton will be grappling with the issue of her e-mails as the presidential campaign enters the final stretch into the Nov. 8 election.

Selling Point

Clinton’s central selling point to voters is that her eight years in the White House as first lady, eight years as a U.S. senator and four years as secretary of state make her one of the most experienced candidates ever to run for president. She’s labeled Trump as unqualified and unfit for the office.
In the examination of how she came to use a private e-mail server while serving as the nation’s chief diplomat:
  • Clinton told the FBI she could not recall any briefing or training by the State Department related to the retention of federal records or handling of classified information.
  • She couldn’t give an example of how classification of a document was determined and said “she relied on career foreign service professionals to appropriately mark and handle classified information.”
  • Clinton told the interviewers she didn’t recognize that passages marked with a small (c) stood for being confidential. Rather, she suggested the marking might refer to paragraphs marked in alphabetical order.
  • She directed her aides to create her private e-mail account but said she had no knowledge of why a private server was installed in the basement of her New York home or how it was secured.
The FBI report also said Clinton, her aides and her lawyers lost track of at least eight mobile devices she used to send private e-mail during her tenure, meaning the FBI couldn’t review them as part of its investigation. One person interviewed by the FBI said he recalled two instances in which Clinton’s devices were destroyed by “breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”