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Donald Trump has a powerful new weapon

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The FBI has found Hillary Clinton should not be charged over her use of private email servers.

Hillary Clinton won’t be indicted, but that doesn’t mean she’s out of the woods.

DONALD Trump must be licking his lips.

The Republican presidential candidate just got all the ammunition he needed to revive his deeply troubled campaign, thanks to the one person Americans dislike almost as much as him — his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Overnight, the FBI announced that Clinton wouldn’t be indicted for being “extremely careless” with classified information during her tenure as Secretary of State. On one level, it’s a relief for the Democratic nominee, because she won’t go into the election facing criminal charges. That’s always a plus.

But the good news for Clinton ends there. While the FBI’s investigation won’t hurt her legally, it could be the devastating political weapon Trump needs to take her down.

Hillary Clinton spent the day campaigning with President Barack Obama for the first time.

Hillary Clinton spent the day campaigning with President Barack Obama for the first time.Source:AP

HOW THE SCANDAL UNFOLDED

When she became Secretary of State in 2009, Clinton set up a private server for her emails instead of using the official government system. The Associated Press first revealed its existence to the public in March of 2015, long after she left the State Department.

The revelation prompted an investigation from Barack Obama’s Justice Department, as Clinton’s political opponents accused her of violating government rules and making classified information vulnerable to hackers. In response, Clinton repeatedly said no email she sent or received through the server was classified, before later altering her language to claim none of the emails were “marked” classified at the time.

Clinton handed over tens of thousands of work-related emails to the department — but deleted tens of thousands more from the server, because she deemed them “personal”. Some of those emails were recovered by the FBI after it joined the investigation, but many weren’t.

In May, the State Department’s internal watchdog said Clinton and her team had ignored clear warnings from officials that her email setup violated federal standards and could leave sensitive material vulnerable. The audit said Clinton had feared “the personal would have been accessible” if she had used a government email account, meaning she wanted to keep her personal emails out of reach.

On Friday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would accept whatever recommendations were presented to her at the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation. Her statement came days after she met with former president Bill Clinton, leading to questions about her impartiality.

Then, on Saturday, FBI agents finally interviewed Clinton herself at the agency’s headquarters. They had earlier interviewed Clinton’s top aides, including her former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and longtime aide Huma Abedin.

Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin (left) was also pulled into the controversy.

Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin (left) was also pulled into the controversy.Source:AFP

Finally, after a year of digging into the case, the FBI announced its findings overnight. Director James Comey said there was no proof that Clinton or her aides had intended to break laws governing the handling of classified information, and therefore “no charges are appropriate”. Apart from that, he was harsh.

“There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.

“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position … should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for sensitive conversations, he added.

Comey directly contradicted many of Clinton’s past statements, including her assertion that she’d turned over all her emails and that she had never sent or received any that were classified at the time.

The FBI chief said 113 emails were determined to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. He also found that “several thousand work-related emails” were not among the group of 30,000 Clinton turned over in 2014. And he raised the possibility that people hostile to the U.S. had gained access to her personal email account.

FBI Director James Comey.

FBI Director James Comey.Source:AP

‘RULE OF LAW TURNED UPSIDE DOWN’

Donald Trump savaged the FBI’s decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton compromised the safety of the American people by storing highly classified information on a private email server with no security,” Trump said in a statement. “Her email could easily have been hacked by hostile actors.

“Clinton lied when she said that she did not send classified information . On top of it all, Hillary Clinton’s lawyers wiped the servers clean to delete another 30,000 emails, hiding her corrupt dealings from investigators.

“Because of our rigged system that holds the American people to one standard and people like Hillary Clinton to another, it does not look like she will be facing the criminal charges she deserves.”

Never one to talk around the issue.

Never one to talk around the issue.Source:AFP

Trump’s criticism was echoed by other Republicans, who were almost as bellicose in their condemnation of Clinton.

“This announcement defies explanation. No one should be above the law,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”

Florida Senator and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio called Clinton’s actions “grossly negligent” and said she “put lives at risk”.

“Hillary Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State and her mishandling of classified information was disgraceful and unbecoming of someone who aspires to the presidency.”

The harshest critic of all was America’s foremost libertarian, Senator Rand Paul.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s allies in the Democratic Party leapt to her defence, saying the scandal had been blown out of proportion.

“There is no substance to these attacks,” said Clinton delegate Michael Perez. “The Republican Party has been doing their best to defame Hillary Clinton and stick her name through the mud.”

The official response from Clinton’s campaign was more understated.

“As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again,” press secretary Brain Fallon said in a statement. “We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”

This isn’t the last time Hillary Clinton’s email scandal will bug her.

This isn’t the last time Hillary Clinton’s email scandal will bug her.Source:AP

DONALD’S NEW TRUMP CARD

The thing is, it isn’t resolved. Not really. Trump will use the email scandal to impugn Clinton’s trustworthiness and fitness for office until election day. As the New York Times put it, the “FBI’s critique of Hillary Clinton is a ready-made attack ad”.

“Comey all but indicted her judgment and competence — two vital pillars of her presidential candidacy — and in the kind of terms that would be politically devastating in a normal election year,” wrote reporter Patrick Healy.

The Washington Post’sChris Cillizza said Comey’s press conference “provided huge amounts of fodder that could badly hamstring her in the court of public opinion”.

“She did send and receive classified emails. The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails that contained professional information,” he wrote.

“Those are the facts, delivered by the Justice Department of a Democratic administration. And those facts run absolutely counter to the narrative put forth by the Clinton operation.”

Donald Trump clearly has a powerful new weapon in his quest to win the White House. It could breathe new life into his faltering campaign — if he uses it wisely.

“It’s nice to be talking about somebody else’s scandal for once.”

“It’s nice to be talking about somebody else’s scandal for once.”Source:AFP