The F.B.I. interviewed Hillary Clinton on Saturday morning for its investigation into whether or not she or her aides broke the legislation by corresponding by way of a private email server arrange for her use as secretary of state, an argument that has dogged her presidential marketing campaign and offered fodder for her political rivals.
The voluntary interview, which came about over three and a half hours on the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington, largely targeted on the Justice Department’s central query: Did the actions of Mrs. Clinton or her employees rise to the extent of felony mishandling of labeled data?
It may take weeks or longer to achieve a choice, however information that Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, had been questioned within the J. Edgar Hoover Building three weeks earlier than her social gathering’s conference shortly reverberated.
The Republican National Committee known as the step “unprecedented,” whereas Mrs. Clinton’s anticipated opponent within the race for the White House, Donald J. Trump, wasted little time earlier than weighing in.
“It is inconceivable for the FBI to not advocate felony costs in opposition to Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “What she did was mistaken!”
The interview had been weeks within the making as legislation enforcement officers and Mrs. Clinton’s group coordinated schedules. Democrats additionally hoped that holding the interview on a vacation weekend would possibly ease the anticipated storm.
In a telephone interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC after her assembly, Mrs. Clinton mentioned, “I’ve been desperate to do it, and I used to be happy to have the chance to help the division in bringing its assessment to a conclusion.”
Accompanying Mrs. Clinton into the assembly have been her lawyer David E. Kendall; Cheryl D. Mills and Heather Samuelson, longtime aides who’re additionally legal professionals; and two legal professionals from Mr. Kendall’s agency, Williams & Connolly, Katherine Turner and Amy Saharia.
Eight officers from the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice carried out the interview, based on an individual who was acquainted with the substance of the session however declined to be named as a result of the assembly was personal. This particular person characterised the assembly as “civil” and “businesslike.”
Neither the marketing campaign nor the F.B.I. would elaborate.
Although the interview on Saturday was an necessary step towards closure on the e-mail concern, technical evaluation of the fabric stays to be finished and will stretch on for an indeterminate interval.
The F.B.I. usually interviews key figures earlier than concluding an investigation, and such conferences aren’t a sign that it thinks the particular person broke the legislation.
While protection legal professionals typically advise shoppers in opposition to such interviews, Mrs. Clinton’s marketing campaign has been longing for her to cooperate, lest she give her opponents extra ammunition.
On Saturday, in an announcement after the assembly, the Republican National Committee mentioned that Mrs. Clinton “has simply taken the unprecedented step of changing into the primary main social gathering presidential candidate to be interviewed by the F.B.I. as a part of a felony investigation surrounding her reckless conduct.”
Mrs. Clinton has struggled to get past the difficulty, which got here to gentle final 12 months throughout a Republican-led congressional investigation into the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist assault in Benghazi, Libya. More than 30,000 emails have since been made public.
After spending a lot of final summer season arguing she didn’t have to apologize for protecting a personal server in her house in Chappaqua, N.Y., as a result of the follow was allowed, Mrs. Clinton now incessantly apologizes for the follow, saying it had been a mistake.
The marketing campaign has prioritized helping the F.B.I., but it surely declined to cooperate with a State Department inspector normal’s audit of Mrs. Clinton’s email practices.
Those findings, delivered to members of Congress in May, undermined a few of Mrs. Clinton’s preliminary statements defending her use of the server.
The report mentioned there was “no proof” that she had requested or acquired approval for the server, regardless of having “an obligation to debate utilizing her private electronic mail account to conduct official enterprise.”
Federal legislation deems it against the law to “knowingly” mishandle labeled data outdoors safe authorities channels or to allow the follow by way of “gross negligence.”
None of the emails on Mrs. Clinton’s personal server have been marked labeled on the time they have been despatched or acquired, however the Central Intelligence Agency later decided that some contained materials that will be thought of “prime secret.”
Asked Saturday on MSNBC if she had damaged the legislation, Mrs. Clinton repeated her protection: “I by no means acquired nor despatched any materials that was marked labeled.”
There has been no indication that delicate data was compromised by Mrs. Clinton’s use of a personal server. But it has fed a notion that she was making an attempt to cover data, chipping away at knowledge gauging her trustworthiness. A Quinnipiac University poll launched on Wednesday discovered that voters deemed Mr. Trump extra trustworthy and reliable than Mrs. Clinton, 45 p.c to 37 p.c.
“I’ve mentioned that I’m going to proceed to place forth my file, what I’ve stood for, do every part I can to earn the belief of the voters of our nation,” she advised MSNBC when requested about being seen as much less reliable than Mr. Trump. “I do know that’s one thing that I’m going to maintain engaged on, and I believe that’s, you understand, a transparent precedence for me.”
Mrs. Clinton had no public occasions scheduled on Saturday, however after her F.B.I. interview she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, went to New York and noticed the Broadway present “Hamilton.”
Mrs. Clinton’s assembly with the F.B.I. got here amid controversy over a quick, unplanned assembly between Mr. Clinton and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch whereas each have been on the Phoenix airport on the similar time final week.
To keep away from any look of political meddling, Ms. Lynch mentioned on Friday that she would accept the recommendations of profession prosecutors and the F.B.I. director on whether or not to carry costs within the matter. She mentioned she had made that call a number of months in the past, earlier than the criticism surrounding her assembly with Mr. Clinton.
She described the assembly with Mr. Clinton as an informal dialog that didn’t contact on the investigation. But it added to Clinton marketing campaign employees members’ complications over the e-mail inquiry, which that they had hoped to place behind them earlier than the Democratic conference this month.
“I definitely wouldn’t do it once more,” Ms. Lynch mentioned of the assembly with the ex-president.