Clinton character questions likely to persist

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The FBI may have spared Hillary Clinton the worst in wrapping up its investigation into her use of email as secretary of state. But the way in which Director James Comey did so makes it unlikely criticism of her judgment and character will fade before Election Day.

Giving little indication he was about to clear Clinton of wrongdoing, Comey on Tuesday delivered a blistering assessment of the Democratic nominee’s missteps in using a personal email account run on private servers.

The FBI determined Clinton sent and received classified information on her private email set-up, he said, contradicting her months of public assurances she had not. He added that agents found “several thousand work-related emails” that Clinton’s attorneys failed to turn over, and went on to raise the prospect that people hostile to the U.S. had snooped on her account.

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“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said Tuesday in a rare public airing of a months-long investigation.

When the moment came that Democrats have been waiting on for months — Comey concluding his remarks by saying “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton — it almost seemed to be afterthought.

It was a moment made all the more extraordinary by the political calendar — just three weeks before Clinton is scheduled to formally accept the Democratic nomination for president and four months before the November election. Not to mention only a few hours before President Barack Obama made his debut in the 2016 campaign, appearing at an event in the battleground state of North Carolina with his preferred successor.

For the millions of Americans who distrust Clinton and still cringe at the scandals that plagued her husband’s presidency, there were unmistakably familiar echoes of a classic Clinton controversy.

Through Whitewater and Travelgate, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, opponents have cast the Clintons as politicians who do just enough to stay within the law — and use powerful connections to help them do so. Public polls show Clinton struggles mightily when Americans are asked about her honesty, even though she’s viewed as experienced and competent.