(CNSNews.com) - One week after Attorney General Loretta Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton; three days after Hillary Clinton met with FBI investigators; and on the same day Hillary Clinton was campaigning alongside President Obama in North Carolina, FBI Director James Comey announced that he is referring the Clinton email case to the Justice Department with a recommendation that "no charges are appropriate in this case."
"Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case," Comey told a news conference Tuesday morning.
Comey said the FBI did not coordinate its findings with the anyone else in the Obama administration. "They do not know what I'm about to say."
Comey noted that prosecutors weigh a number of factors before deciding whether to bring charges. "They're obvious considerations," Comey said, "like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent." He also mentioned "the context of a person's actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past."
"In looking back at our investigation into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts," he said.
"All of the cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct, or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice.
"We do not see these things here."
Comey said although the FBI did not find "clear evidence" that Clinton and her colleagues intended to violate the law, "there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."
Comey also noted that even if sensitive information was not marked as classified at the time an email was sent, Clinton or "any reasonable person...should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."
Comey said people doing what Clinton did "are often subject to security or administrative sactions, but that's not what we're deciding now. As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case."
Comey said he knows there will be "intense public debate" about the recommendation he is making to the Justice Department.
But he insisted the investigation was done "honestly, competently and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear."
Comey said the FBI investigation looked at whether there is evidence that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on a personal system in violation of the federal statute that makes it a felony to mishandle classified information, either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.
The FBI also looked at possible misdemeanor violations of a second statute to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.
Investigators also looked into possible hacking.