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GOP sees Comey statement as condemnation of Clinton; Democrats see vindication

President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greet people on the tarmac after arriving at North Carolina Air National Guard Base in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Obama is spending the afternoon campaigning for Clinton. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Reactions to FBI Director James Comey's statement on the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email practices on Capitol Hill Tuesday fell mostly along party lines.

Comey said the FBI is recommending that no charges be filed against Clinton or her aides for behavior that he described as "extremely careless," and he acknowledged that Clinton may have exposed top secret information to hacking due to her private server use.

Citing comments by Comey that contradicted the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's public statements, Republicans blasted her actions and questioned the FBI's conclusion that no "reasonable prosecutor" would pursue a criminal case against Clinton.

"While I respect the law enforcement professionals at the FBI, this announcement defies explanation," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a statement. "No one should be above the law. But based upon the director's own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law."

Speaking of Clinton's behavior as secretary of state in general, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said public opinion of Clinton's destruction of federal records and poor judgment is reflected in polling that shows she is trusted by a shrinking number of Americans.

"The more and more we learn about the secretary's habits and practices as secretary, the more alarmed most people are becoming across the country," Gardner said. "Her blatant disregard for best practices, her blatant disregard for keeping federal records clearly shows that she's unfit to lead any department, let alone be president of the United States."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said the FBI should have at least recommended taking the initial steps toward prosecution, based on Comey's suggestion that possible violations of the law occurred.

"If she were a Republican, she would have been indicted," Smith said.

Even if Clinton did not commit a crime, Smith argued that her actions should still be scrutinized as part of the presidential campaign.

"I do not think it's over because clearly Hillary Clinton violated possibly some laws and clearly she endangered national security," Smith said. "That needs to be a part of the political debate."

Despite the harsh criticism Comey hurled at Clinton, Democrats portrayed his statement Tuesday as a victory for the former secretary of state.

"There was never any question in my mind that this didn't involve any criminal activity and I'm pleased that the director has come to this conclusion," Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said.

He praised Comey as "a person of extraordinary integrity" and said the statement proved the FBI investigation was thorough and complete.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) noted that Clinton has admitted her use of a private email server to conduct government business was a mistake, but her predecessors as secretary did not use state.gov email accounts either. The careless conduct Comey described does not necessarily rise to the level of criminal behavior.

"At least we're going to put it behind us in terms of official action," Davis said, but he predicted this will not lay the issue to rest for Republicans.

"They will use every approach, every avenue, every thought, every idea you try everything you can try, but I think when the end comes, we still will find that the secretary was vindicated," Davis said.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is already attacking the decision on Twitter, claiming it shows the system is "rigged" and attempting to tie it to his theme that Clinton is "crooked." For Democrats, though, the headline is that not enough evidence of wrongdoing was found to justify a criminal case that would have torpedoed Clinton's campaign.

"We'll talk about it until the election is over," Davis said. "We'll talk about it until the cows come home from the pasture, but that's what it will be: conversation."

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