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We now know what Clinton told the FBI — but should we?

On Friday, the FBI released two key documents from its investigation into the private email server Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. One file contains the FBI’s notes from its interviews with Clinton; the other summarizes the agency’s findings. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with NPR’s Carrie Johnson about what new information these materials reveal and why their publication is controversial.

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    But, first: Today, the FBI released two key documents about its investigation into the private email server Hillary Clinton used when she was secretary of state.

    One contains the agency's notes from Clinton's FBI interview, and the other is a 47-page summary of the FBI's findings.

    NPR's Carrie Johnson is covering the story and joins me now.

    So, what's new about the documents that were released today?


    There are several new details, including really a sense of what Hillary Clinton told FBI investigators in that three-and-a-half-hour interview at FBI headquarters on July 2.

    Hari, she said she used this personal server as a matter of convenience. She never had a concern that she or anybody close to her was mishandling classified information, and that she actually doesn't recall attending a security briefing or any kind of training about open records lawsuits or open records laws, which is interesting, because these materials only came out after a host of FOIA requests from news organizations and calls from Republicans in Congress.


    And there was — one of the emails — or at least one of the quotes that we have is about a drone program. I think we can put that up.

    It says, "Clinton stated" — this is the FBI saying: "Clinton stated deliberation over a future drone strike didn't give her cause for concern regarding classification."

    Is this willful oversight, ignorance? Was she too busy? What were the reasons that they gave?


    Recall, Hari, that the FBI director, James Comey, has said that Hillary Clinton and closest aides were extremely careless with government secrets, but he didn't find enough evidence to prosecute anyone for wrongdoing.

    That said, these new documents today include more information about what was going through her own email server, a lot of documents, a lot of emails about the drone program, one of the government's most secret tools in the national security space, to allow officials at the CIA and the Pentagon to engage in extrajudicial killing of terrorists or would-be terrorists overseas.

    And what Hillary Clinton was asked about by the FBI were a number of emails about targeted killings about to happen, disputes between different government agencies about who should be targeted for those kinds of drone strikes and other things.

    What Hillary Clinton said in response to FBI questions was mainly, listen, I relied on career State Department officials to make determinations about what should be classified and what shouldn't.

    She also said that these programs were the subject of multiple debates in media, in newspapers, on television and the like. And, often, her aides were passing around articles from newspapers about drone strikes. So, she thought it was OK to write about that.


    At one point, I remember FBI Director Comey saying that no reasonable prosecutor would take this case.

    I mean, there's also a little bit of controversy on just the releasing of these notes from an interview or this sort of a summary finding.


    Hari, it's enormously controversial among Democrats, who believe that this could further cement a sense in the political campaign that Hillary Clinton is secretive or may have character problems.

    And it's enormously controversial among some senior Justice Department officials from past administrations, with whom I spoke today. They said, when you decide not to bring charges against somebody, you shouldn't dump all kinds of derogatory information about them out into the public space.

    In fact, one of them emailed me this afternoon saying, can you imagine the political careers that would be ended if the Justice Department decided to release these sensitive case materials in all the matters in which we decline to prosecute people?

    Where to draw the line here? So there is some sense that this could set a precedent for demands from Congress and reporters for a lot of sensitive information on closed cases on national security and public corruption moving forward.


    All right, Carrie Johnson of NPR joining us, thanks so much.


    Thank you.

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