Hillary Clinton won't be charged with a crime for using a private email server during her time as secretary of state, but has the email "scandal" done permanent damage to her reputation?
On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Clinton's handling of classified information, but also took the time to call her actions "extremely careless"—not exactly a ringing endorsement for the presumptive Democratic nominee's campaign.
Since Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in 2009, she used the email address email@example.com, with her own domain housed on a private server in her New York home, according to the New York Times. She said she didn't want to carry two devices, so she chose to send and receive all emails on her private account—but when you're handling sensitive and classified information on the regular, it's best to use a secure system.
FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Clinton's handling of classified information, but also took the time to call her actions "extremely careless."
In September 2012, an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by Islamic extremists. In December, the House Oversight Committee investigating the incident asked about Clinton's email account, since she was responsible for security at the embassy where the attack occurred. Initially, the State Department called the attack a spontaneous protest rather than a coordinated terrorist attack—a statement that was later refuted. The State Department followed up with a detailed explanation of the department's email policies, but didn't answer the question: Was Hillary using a private email server?
In May 2014, a select committee formed to investigate the Benghazi attack requested all of Clinton's emails, which are supposed to be stored on State Department servers. Instead, Clinton turned over only a few emails from a private account. In December 2014, she gave more than 55,000 pages of printed emails and revealed that she deleted an additional 32,000 emails from her private server. Because Clinton's emails contained classified information, the FBI formally confirmed its investigation into possible criminal charges in February.
In June, the select committee on Benghazi released its report and found no wrongdoing by Clinton. Now, the FBI has found the same; investigators found her private email server practice sloppy, but not criminal.
But for voters who have spent years hearing about all the "shady stuff" Clinton’s been up to, the email "scandal" might seem like just another instance of “Crooked Hillary” being…crooked. There have been so many scandals and accusations leveled against Clinton over the decades, it's hard to keep track. The email scandal is related to a larger Behghazi investigation, which has been panned by Clinton's fellow Democrats as a taxpayer-funded $7 million witch hunt proliferated by Republicans to damage Clinton's credibility heading into the presidential election.
And it looks like it worked. A Fox News poll from June revealed that 60 percent of American voters think “Hillary Clinton put national security at risk by mishandling classified emails” and “lying about it.”
From the Whitewater investigation into their real estate dealings to accusations that they were responsible for friend and White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster's suicide, the Clintons have long been embroiled in controversy. In 1998, Hillary famously pinned the smear campaign as a “vast right wing conspiracy”—a claim she stands by today, calling the conspiracy "even better funded" in 2016.
Although Clinton has never been implicated in anything criminal, the steady drumbeat of scandal has gone a long way toward helping forge a "shady" public image, which undoubtedly contributes to her "strongly unfavorable" ratings.
If you think the attacks on Hillary are harmless or going to let up, consider Trump's business-savvy capitalization of scandal. The billionaire fanned the flames of conspiracy theories regarding Foster’s suicide last May, despite the fact that he’s been dead since 1993. He’s also placed Newt Gingrich, the architect of many Clinton attacks in the '90s, on his short list for potential running mates.
Clinton might be off the hook when it comes to criminal charges, but the Republican Party and Trump in particular will try to take advantage of public perception to distract from Trump's inflammatory and dangerous campaign inching towards the White House. Don't let them.