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FBI investigation pokes holes in Clinton claims about her server

Clinton's Email Contradictions
Dickerson: Clinton email contradictions leave much for voters to ponder 01:03
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On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey held a press conference that cleared Secretary Hillary Clinton but raised new questions about claims she has made about her private email server.

The FBI is not recommending any charges against Clinton, Comey said, and he said investigators "did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information." However, Comey did say that the FBI found that "there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."

Comey said the FBI had found 110 emails on Clinton's server that were classified at the time they were sent or received, and some had the highest security clearance. That contradicts repeated claims by Clinton and her campaign that she had never sent any emails that were classified at the time she sent or received them.

In multiple "Face the Nation" interviews, Secretary Clinton has denied that any classified emails were sent or received through her private server. In January, she told me that, "in fact, as the State Department has said, there was no transmission of any classified information." During that same interview, Clinton insisted she and her colleagues knew what they were doing when it came to classified information. The former secretary also singled out her top aide Jake Sullivan for special praise, saying that he would never have sent anything that might have even possibly of being classified.

"I had great confidence, because I had worked with Jake Sullivan for years," she said. "He is the most meticulous, careful person you could possibly do business with. And he knew exactly what was and wasn't appropriate."

Web Extra: Hillary Clinton discusses the cooperation with her staffers in her email investigation 01:42

In May, Clinton again told me that she did not mishandle classified information.

"I say what I've said now for many, many months. It's a security inquiry. I always took classified material seriously," she said on "Face the Nation." "There was never any material marked classified that was sent or received-- by me."

But Comey's stance on the matter is that Clinton and those she was corresponding with should have known better--markings or no markings. In his remarks to the press, he directly addressed this point.

"[E]ven if information is not marked "classified" in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it," he said and added, "There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."

The FBI's recommendation Tuesday to not prosecute Clinton ends the federal investigation, but it does poke holes in a series of Clinton's claims. Comey described a complicated system of multiple servers and multiple devices which undermines Clinton's initial claims that she set up the private system out of convenience. (Emails have since surfaced through the State Department Inspector General that show Clinton was concerned about her privacy -- not her convenience).

Comey also said Clinton and her lawyers deleted a number of business related emails before turning over the 30,000 they gave to the State Department, undermining her repeated claims of transparency and that she turned over all work-related emails. Though the FBI found no wrongdoing in the deletion, Comey said it was possible there were deletions that his investigators could have missed. (He compared searching for some of the deleted emails to "removing the frame from a huge finished jigsaw puzzle and dumping the pieces on the floor.). Comey also said it was possible the system, with lower security than Google's Gmail, could have been hacked.

Not much of Hillary Clinton's original story about her private server stands up after earlier disclosures and the FBI director's address Tuesday. The event also highlighted how much time, effort, money and distraction was caused by creating a system unlike any other, in which the bias wasn't on retaining information (which it is with the government system), but where the Clinton lawyers put the bias on deletion (More emails were deleted than turned over).

The Clinton campaign put out a release saying "this matter is now resolved." Case closed, they would like to say. That's true of the formal investigation, but in the campaign where Clinton's trustworthiness ratings are below the ratings of rival Donald Trump, there is still a lot to discuss. When we think about trusting a president there are two important qualities in candidates: how they will behave when no one is looking? And will they will be truthful when everyone is looking? As the State Department Inspector General found, Hillary Clinton acted outside the spirit and letter of the law when she set up a private server. Her answers after it was disclosed have not stood the test of examination. On those two fronts voters will find a lot that has been left unresolved.

Gabrielle Ake contributed to this report.

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