Several dozen pages of documents released Friday from the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email probe show the former secretary of state repeatedly claimed to have little training or understanding about the classification process – despite leading the department that handled such information on a regular basis and having a security clearance.
The document dump also revealed the gaps that remain in the record. Not only were numerous sections – and entire pages – redacted, but the files showed the FBI could not obtain 13 Clinton mobile devices that may have been used to send emails from her personal email address, in addition to two iPads. And they showed Clinton claiming she could not recall numerous details.
But perhaps most striking were Clinton’s repeated statements regarding her grasp of the classification process. In response to the release, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus said Clinton’s claims suggest she either is “incompetent” or “lied.”
According to the files, Clinton claimed to have relied on the judgment of her aides and other officials to handle classified material appropriately. She even told investigators — when asked what the “C” marking meant before a paragraph in an email marked “Confidential” – that “she did not know and could only speculate it was referencing paragraphs marked in alphabetical order.”
The FBI document notes that the email was in fact marked “classified at the Confidential level.” And when asked about different classification types like “Top Secret,” Clinton went on to say she “did not pay attention to the ‘level’ of classified information and took all classified information seriously.”
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The documents also say Clinton claimed she could not recall “any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records or handling of classified information.” Further, Clinton “could not give an example of how classification of a document was determined.”
Such passages could help explain why FBI Director James Comey said during congressional testimony in July that there were questions over whether Clinton was “sophisticated enough” to know at the time what a particular classified marking signified.
Clinton was found to have sent more than 2,000 emails with classified material on them. Most were retroactively classified, but Comey has disputed Clinton’s insistence that none of them were marked as such at the time.
The FBI ultimately did not pursue charges against Clinton for her use of personal email while secretary of state, with Comey saying there was no evidence anyone intentionally mishandled classified information. He did, however, call Clinton “extremely careless.”
The FBI took the rare step Friday of publishing pages from the investigation after pressure to release the materials. They released a summary of Clinton’s July 2 FBI interview and a summary of the FBI investigation itself.
Despite Clinton’s apparent claims of ignorance on the classification process, Republicans said the files show how reckless she was.
“These documents demonstrate Hillary Clinton’s reckless and downright dangerous handling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state. They also cast further doubt on the Justice Department’s decision to avoid prosecuting what is a clear violation of the law,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
Donald Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement that the files “reinforce her tremendously bad judgment and dishonesty.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Priebus called the documents a “devastating indictment of her judgment, honesty and basic competency,” adding that her interview answers “either show she is completely incompetent or blatantly lied to the FBI or the public. Either way it’s clear that, through her own actions, she has disqualified herself from the presidency.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon defended the candidate in a statement: “We are pleased that the FBI has released the materials from Hillary Clinton’s interview, as we had requested. While her use of a single email account was clearly a mistake and she has taken responsibility for it, these materials make clear why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case.”
Regarding Clinton’s own authority to classify, the files stated she “could not recall how often she used this authority or any training or guidance provided by State. Clinton could not give an example of how classification of a document was determined.”
The FBI’s investigation also concluded Clinton never sought or asked permission to use a private server or email address during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, which violated federal records keeping policies.
Clinton has repeatedly said her use of private email was allowed. But in July she told FBI investigators she “did not explicitly request permission to use a private server or email address,” the FBI wrote. They said no one at the State Department raised concerns during her tenure, and that Clinton said everyone with whom she exchanged emails knew she was using a private email address.
The documents also include technical details about how the server in the basement of Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, New York, was set up. Large portions of the documents were redacted.
Friday’s release of documents involving the Democratic presidential nominee is a highly unusual step, but one that reflects extraordinary public interest in the investigation into Clinton’s server.
“We are making these materials available to the public in the interest of transparency and in response to numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests,” the FBI said in a statement. “Appropriate redactions have been made for classified information or other material exempt from disclosure under FOIA. “
After a yearlong investigation, the FBI recommended against prosecution in July, and the Justice Department then closed the case.
Meanwhile, the documents said the FBI identified 13 mobile devices associated with her two phone numbers. The Justice Department was unable to obtain any of them.
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, continued to press the FBI to release more, saying the summaries released Friday are of “little benefit” by themselves.
“The public is entitled to all … information, including the testimony of the witnesses at Platte River Networks, the entity which maintained the private server. The public will find the timeline and witness responses and failures to respond instructive,” he said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.