Hillary Clinton’s emails became a topic of discussion in March 2015 when it became publicly known that she had used a personal email account and server for her official communications as secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.
Clinton provided about 30,000 emails in December 2014 to the State Department. Since then, the State Department and the FBI have investigated her use of a personal email server.
On July 6, Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted the FBI's recommendation that no charges be brought against Clinton. The day before, FBI Director James Comey had said no criminal charges were recommended, despite evidence of “extremely careless handling” of Clinton’s emails.
"I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation," Lynch said in a statement.
Here’s a breakdown of the issues with Clinton’s email account and some of the findings by the State Department and the FBI.
Why did Clinton use her personal email account?
Clinton said she chose to use her personal email account because it was most convenient for her. She used her personal BlackBerry and later a personal iPad to send and receive emails. The server was set up in her home in upstate Chappaqua.
Was Clinton’s use of a personal email against the law?
In a State Department briefing in May 2016, a senior State Department official said there was “no absolute prohibition” on using a personal email, but that the department would not have encouraged the sole use of one.
The official State Department report, “Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements,” released the same month, says a 2005 department policy says that day-to-day operations “should be conducted on an authorized Automated Information System (AIS), which ‘has the proper level of security control to … ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.’”
The report says that Clinton also did not receive approval “to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server.”
The other issue analyzed in the report is whether a proper record of Clinton’s emails was kept, which is required by the Federal Records Act. Had she used a State Department email, all the emails would be recorded in the department’s server, but that is not the case for her personal account.
While Clinton and her aides say that since she emailed people who had State Department accounts, her emails would be saved in the department’s server, the department said that is not enough to ensure that all her emails were recorded.
“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report says.
Did Clinton turn over all her emails from her private server?
No. Clinton and her aides determined which of her emails were work-related and which were personal. Her staff turned over 30,000 work-related emails, but the FBI found an additional 7,000 work-related emails over the course of its investigation.
Did Clinton receive classified information while using her personal email?
There have been various reports on whether information in Clinton’s emails was classified.
Clinton has said repeatedly that she did not send or receive emails marked as classified on her personal account.
After examination by both the State Department and the FBI, some emails were determined to have classified information, even if they were not marked classified. Others have also been marked classified after the fact. Of the 30,000 emails Clinton turned over, the FBI found that 110 emails contained classified information, three included sensitive information, and another 2,000 were "up-classified" -- in other words, they're now considered confidential.
Was Clinton’s email account hacked?
Comey said while it is possible that hostile actors could have hacked Clinton’s personal email, there is no “direct evidence” that they did. “But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence,” Comey said. “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account.”
Did other secretaries of state use private emails?
Yes. Secretary Colin Powell, who served from 2001 to 2005, used a private email account on a personal laptop in his office while traveling and at his home, the State Department report says. He did not keep records of these emails in accordance with the Federal Records Act, according to the report.
Current Secretary of State John Kerry has used personal email to conduct government business “infrequently,” the reports says.
Secretary Madeleine Albright (1997 to 2001) and Secretary Condoleezza Rice (2005 to 2009) did not use email during their tenures, according to the report.
Who made the final decision about whether Clinton should be charged?
The Justice Department, headed by Lynch, made the final decision on whether or not to prosecute Clinton, although Lynch said prior that she would accept the FBI's recommendation.
Former President Bill Clinton made headlines just days before Comey’s speech when he met privately with Lynch at an Arizona airport. While the two say the meeting was social, there is speculation about why they would meet in light of the email investigation.