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She Said, He Said: How Clinton's Version Of Events Stacks Up With Comey's

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, during a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C.
Justin Sullivan
Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, during a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C.

The long-running drama over Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state came to some resolution today as FBI Director James Comey announced that while Clinton was "extremely careless" in handling classified information, she should not face charges.

As Comey laid out the agency's reasoning, however, it became clear that his version of events differed from what Clinton has said in the past. His comments and her previous declarations raised many questions.

Here are four of the most important ones.

1. Did Clinton send and receive classified material on her personal email?

What She Said:

On March 10, 2015, when Clinton held a press conference at the United Nations to address the issue of her private email server at length, she did not equivocate.

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"I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email," she said. "There is no classified material."

By Feb. 1, 2016, Clinton had softened that statement. Here's what she told NPR's Morning Edition:

"The emails that I was received were not marked classified. Now, there are disagreements among agencies on what should have been perhaps classified retroactively, but at the time that doesn't change the fact that they were not marked classified."

What He Said:

FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI headquarters in Washington.
Cliff Owen / AP
FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI headquarters in Washington.

In his statement today, Comey said that the FBI not only looked at the 30,000 emails that Clinton turned over to the Department of State, but investigators also looked through servers for emails that had been deleted.

In total, Comey said, 113 emails — including three newly discovered ones — read by the FBI contained classified information at the time they were sent or received.

Some of them were highly classified. Seven email chains, for example, concerned issues that "were classified at the top secret special access program," which denotes some of the most sensitive information a government official might come across.

"Those chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails about those same matters," Comey said.

Comey added that a "very small number of the emails" were marked — or labeled — "classified."

"But even if information is not marked classified in an email, participants who know, or should know, that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it," Comey said.

2. Did Clinton turn over all work-related email to the Department of State?

What She Said:

Again, during her press conference at the U.N., Clinton was clear on this point:

"I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department."

What He Said:

When the FBI looked at emails that had been deleted from Clinton's server, they turned up "several thousand work-related emails" that were not turned over to the State Department.

Comey added:

"I should add here that we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them in some way. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from her system when devices were changed.

"Because she was not using a government account or even a commercial account like Gmail, there was no archiving at all of her emails. So it's not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton's system in 2014 when she produced those 30,000-some emails to State."

3. Was Clinton's personal email server hacked?

What She Said:

At the U.N. press conference, Clinton said that her email system was set up for President Bill Clinton's office at their home in New York.

"It had numerous safeguards," she said. "It was on property guarded by the Secret Service and there were no security breaches."

In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell earlier this year, Clinton was asked if she had any indication that her private server was hacked by foreign actors.

"No, not at all," she said.

What He Said:

Comey said that Clinton's server did not enjoy "full-time security" like the servers at U.S. agencies or even like the servers used by commercial services like Gmail.

Comey said the agency was not able to tell for sure whether Clinton's server was hacked by a nation-state or hostile actors. Here's how he explained it:

"We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton's use of a personal domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent.

"She also used her personal email extensively while outside of the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal email account."

4. Did Clinton access her email from several devices?

What She Said:

Clinton said that the big reason she wanted to use a personal email account while secretary of state was convenience.

"When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two," Clinton said.

In July of 2015, after reports surfaced that Clinton used multiple devices, her campaign put out a statement.

"When the iPad came out in 2010, she was as curious as others and found it great for shopping, browsing, and reading articles when she traveled," the campaign said. "She also had access to her email account on her iPad and sometimes used it for that too."

What He Said:

Comey said throughout Clinton's four years as secretary of state, she used several servers and administrators, and she also "used numerous mobile devices" to send and read email.

"As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored and decommissioned in various ways," Comey said.

Because Comey did not take questions, it is unclear whether Clinton was using those "numerous mobile devices" at the same time or if she swapped them out over time.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.