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Report: FBI's top lawyer testified that he thought Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted over email scandal — but was talked out of it

Before James Comey's announcement, however, he reportedly changed his mind

James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

James Baker, the former top lawyer for the FBI, reportedly initially thought that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for her "alarming" mishandling of classified emails, but was eventually convinced otherwise.

In July 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI had found that Clinton's handling of classified emails during her time as Secretary of State was "extremely careless" but that he would not be recommending any criminal charges.

Who is James Baker?

Baker was the FBI's general counsel under Comey's leadership. Current FBI Director Christopher Wray reassigned Baker in 2017, and he left the bureau in May 2018.

In January, one of Baker's attorneys confirmed that Baker was under investigation for potentially leaking information to reporters while he worked at the Justice Department.

What did Baker say?

According to a transcript of Baker's testimony before congressional committees in October, Baker called what Clinton had done "alarming" and "appalling."

The transcript was reviewed by Fox News and The Hill's John Solomon.

In one portion of the transcript, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) asks Baker if he "originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with regard to violations of law — various laws, with regard to mishandling of classified information." Baker consulted with his lawyer and then responded with a simple "yes."

He reportedly elaborated:

My original belief after — well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials — I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn't be charged.

He also said that he thought Clinton and her team should have known that they were dealing with classified information:

[T]he nature and scope of the classified information that, to me, initially, when I looked at it, I thought these folks should know that this stuff is classified, that it was alarming what they were talking about, especially some of the most highly classified stuff.

However, Baker added that if he had thought there was more evidence of criminal intent from Clinton, "I would have argued that vociferously with him [Comey] and maybe changed his view."

But Baker eventually came around to the same conclusion that Comey had.

"So, I had that belief initially after reviewing, you know, a large binder of her emails that had classified information in them," he said, according to Solomon. "And I discussed it internally with a number of different folks, and eventually became persuaded that charging her was not appropriate because we could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — we, the government, could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — she had the intent necessary to violate [the law]."

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