State Department reopens its Clinton emails inquiry

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., on July 5.
(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

The State Department is reopening an internal investigation of possible mishandling of classified information by Hillary Clinton and top aides.

Although the former secretary of State’s closest confidants have left the agency, they could still face punishment. The most serious would be loss of security clearances, which could complicate her aides’ hopes of securing top positions on her national security team if she becomes president.

The State Department started its review in January after declaring 22 emails from Clinton’s private server to be “top secret.” The investigation was suspended in April to avoid interfering with the FBI’s inquiry. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the probe is restarting after the Justice Department’s announcement Wednesday that it won’t bring any criminal charges.


Kirby set no deadline for the investigation’s completion.

“We will aim to be as expeditious as possible, but we will not put artificial deadlines on the process,” he said. “Our goal will be to be as transparent as possible about our results, while complying with our various legal obligations.”

Kirby wouldn’t say anything more about the precise information officials are evaluating. But when the probe was launched almost six months ago, officials said it pertained particularly to a set of emails that were upgraded to one of the nation’s highest classification levels. One question they said they were investigating was whether any of the emails were classified at the time of transmission.

Clinton was secretary of State until early 2013. Most of her top advisors left shortly thereafter.

But Kirby said this week that former officials could still face punishment.

Beyond the Democratic front-runner, the probe will most likely examine confidants Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin,who wrote many of the emails to their boss on which the various investigations have focused. Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, has been viewed as a possibility for the same job in the White House. There is speculation that Sullivan, Clinton’s former policy chief, could be national security advisor.

“There could be repercussions,” Kirby told reporters Wednesday, saying infractions identified would be kept on file. If someone’s security clearance is taken away, he said, it would have an effect “assuming that individual still needed the clearance to work in another federal agency or something like that.”

The State Department said it won’t identify former officials who still hold security clearances. But in an email Fox News made public earlier this year, the department described Mills as still holding a valid clearance.

Meanwhile, FBI Director James Comey on Thursday vigorously defended his decision not to file criminal charges over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, at times lecturing incredulous Republican lawmakers in a House hearing on the fine line between being careless and committing a crime.


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7:04 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from State Department spokesman John Kirby and more background information about the probe.

This article was originally posted at 4:12 p.m.