It has been quite a week for Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey recommended against criminal charges in the wake of an investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server during her time as secretary of state. It was the second piece of good news for Clinton in a matter of days: A week earlier, House Republicans found no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton in an investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
That is, it’s good news for Clinton up to a point. Investigations into the e-mail server and Benghazi attacks have loomed over the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee like a dark cloud. Clinton undoubtedly hopes to put these scandals behind her with the Democratic National Convention less than a month away. Yet both investigations have yielded results that Donald Trump, and other opponents, can seize on to reinforce the perception of many voters that Clinton is a corrupt politician who can’t be trusted—effectively guaranteeing that the criticisms will persist regardless of how hard the Clinton campaign works to distance itself from controversy.
Clinton’s political enemies will not find it hard to pick and choose from the FBI findings to make an argument that she can’t be trusted. “I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton said in July 2015. During a January 2016 interview on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Clinton said she “never sent or received any material marked ‘classified.’” In his briefing on Tuesday, Comey reported that “110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined ... to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.” Later on, Comey noted that “only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail,” he said, “participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.” If nothing else, the FBI findings read like a rebuke that Clinton should have known better.