Even if FBI agents discover classified information on a newly seized laptop, Hillary Clinton is unlikely to face criminal charges, according to legal experts and former federal prosecutors.
That’s largely because the Justice Department and FBI Director James B. Comey have already declined to prosecute based on a legal conclusion that there was no evidence that Clinton and her aides intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, a key element of such a criminal offense.
To change the calculus, the FBI would have to find correspondence that clearly demonstrates Clinton or her aides knowingly broke the law, exchanged materials they knew to be classified or attempted to interfere with the investigation by withholding or destroying evidence, according to former federal prosecutors and legal scholars.
“Such an email itself would have to be one of those things you would be saying, ‘I can’t believe you wrote that down,’” said Roscoe Howard Jr., a former federal prosecutor and U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia during the George W. Bush administration. “I would be shocked if they found such a thing.”