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Fact Check: A Look at Trump's Comments on Clinton's Emails

Trump has distorted facts about Clinton's emails

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    Democrat Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican Donald Trump.

    FactCheck.org is a non-partisan non-profit organization that will hold candidates and key figures accountable during the 2016 presidential campaign. FactCheck.org will check facts of speeches, advertisements and more for NBC.

    Donald Trump distorted the facts about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails when he said in Texas that “the FBI found thousands [of emails] she never turned over, and now just recently found another 15,000 more.”

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    Trump is right that the FBI recovered “several thousand work-related emails” that Clinton did not turn over to the State Department, as FBI Director James Comey disclosed in July. But the FBI did not “just recently” find “another 15,000 more.”

    Instead, it was recently announced that the FBI recovered a total of about 14,900 emails during its year-long investigation of Clinton, including the “several thousand work-related emails” that Comey cited in July.

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    Also, Trump claimed that Clinton deleted her emails to “cover up her crimes,” but Comey said the FBI found “no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails [that the FBI found] were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”

    Trump made his remarks (at the 45:34 mark) during a rally in Austin, Texas, where he talked about the “new revelations about Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.”

    Trump, Aug. 23: She said she turned over all of her work-related emails. But the FBI found thousands she never turned over, and now just recently found another 15,000 more. That was another lie.

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    The 15,000 emails weren’t “just recently found,” and they are not all work-related.

    Getty Images/Panoramic Images

    Let’s recap what happened, beginning with Comey’s announcement on July 5 that the FBI had completed its investigation of Clinton’s use of personal email for government business while secretary of state. The FBI investigation concerned whether there were any violations of federal law on the handling of classified information, and whether there had been any hacking of the email server by foreign or hostile powers.

    Comey announced that day that the FBI would not recommend that criminal charges be filed against Clinton or any State Department staffers for mishandling classified information. During his announcement, Comey said that Clinton turned over about 30,000 emails to the State Department in December 2014, but that the FBI “also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014.”

    Comey at the time didn’t say how many total emails the FBI had recovered or exactly how many of them were work-related. However, it was disclosed at a court hearing on Aug. 22 that the FBI had turned over about 14,900 emails to the State Department that it had uncovered during the course of its investigation. The judge, who is presiding over a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the conservative Judicial Watch, ordered the State Department to expedite its review process and release any emails that are responsive to the group’s FOIA request.

    In a statement to us, the State Department said the 14,900 emails included the “several thousand work-related emails” that Comey mentioned at his July 5 press briefing. A department official told us that the FBI turned over the documents in two batches on July 21 and Aug. 5, and not all of the emails are work-related. The State Department needs to determine how many of them are work-related, although the FBI has said that “several thousand” are work-related. It may also turn out that some of these documents were already released.

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    “State has not yet had the opportunity to complete a review of the documents to determine whether they are agency records or if they are duplicative of documents State has already produced through the Freedom of Information Act,” the State Department said in its statement.

    Trump also suggested that Clinton intentionally deleted emails to “cover up her crimes.” But the FBI found no evidence of a coverup.

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    Comey explained how the FBI recovered the emails that Clinton did not turn over to the State Department in December 2014:

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    (Published Thursday, May 25, 2017)

    Comey, July 5: We found those additional e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, people with whom a Secretary of State might naturally correspond. … Still others we recovered from the laborious review of the millions of e-mail fragments dumped into the slack space of the server decommissioned in 2013.

    Comey said the FBI “found no evidence” that she deleted emails intentionally to conceal them, saying it was “not surprising” that the FBI found emails that Clinton did not turn over to the State Department:

    Comey, July 5: I should add here that we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many e-mail users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails were purged from the 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 e-mails, so it is not surprising that we discovered e-mails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 e-mails to the State Department.

    So, Trump is not only wrong that the FBI “just recently found another 15,000 more” emails, but he is making an unsupported claim that she deleted the emails to “cover up her crimes.”