Bill Clinton’s meeting with the attorney general may have backfired and caused the FBI director to issue harsh criticism of his wife, said NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell said the FBI’s findings were politically damaging, even if they did not lead to any criminal charges.
“The fact is, she has been saying for more than a year now that she never sent or received anything that was classified at the time and his analysis completely disputes that, her main argument,” Mitchell said.
FBI Director James Comey rebuked Clinton, the former Secretary of State, for “extremely careless” handling of classified information — which appears to have been hacked by hostile actors such as China, North Korea or Russia.
“The carelessness and the criticism of that carelessness at the State Department, which he said was unusual in the U.S. government, is also on her watch,” Mitchell said. “This is politically very damaging, not as damaging as a prosecution, obviously not as legally fraught as a prosecution would be, which could be disabling for a nominee, presumptive nominee just weeks before the convention. But the fact is, this is a big political hit. It is not the complete exoneration that they would have hoped for.”
Mitchell said Clinton and her attorneys likely had some idea what evidence the FBI had gathered after interviewing the presumptive Democratic nominee Saturday for three and a half hours.
“There was a standard that they knew would protect her from the likelihood of prosecution (but) I’m not sure they anticipated the harsh criticism that they got from the FBI director,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the FBI found no evidence of intentional cover-up, and said the Clinton case differed from the prosecutions of former CIA directors John Deutsch, who took classified information home, and David Petraeus, who mishandled “vast quantities” of classified information.
Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president and the candidate’s husband, drew widespread criticism for meeting last week with Attorney General Loretta Lynch — and Mitchell said that meeting may have forced Comey to issue a stronger rebuke.
“It’s interesting to note, would he have been so forthcoming had not Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch and exposed the Department of Justice to so much criticism and so much speculation in the last week?” Mitchell said. “That indeed might have precipitated this very unusual statement from the FBI director.”