WASHINGTON • The FBI has interviewed Mrs Hillary Clinton as part of its investigation into whether she or her aides broke the law by corresponding through a private e-mail server set up for her use as US secretary of state, a controversy that has dogged her presidential campaign and provided fodder for her political rivals.
The voluntary interview last Saturday at the Washington HQ of the Federal Bureau of Investigation focused largely on the Justice Department's central question: Did the actions of Mrs Clinton or her staff rise to the level of criminal mishandling of classified information?
It could take weeks or longer to reach a decision, but news that Mrs Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee, had been questioned in the J. Edgar Hoover Building three weeks before her party's convention quickly spread.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) called the step "unprecedented", while Mrs Clinton's expected opponent in the race for the White House, Mr Donald Trump, wasted little time before weighing in.
"It is impossible for the FBI not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that same day. "What she did was wrong!"
Although the interview was an important step towards closure on the e-mail issue, technical analysis of the material remains to be done and could stretch on for an indeterminate period.
In a statement after the meeting, the RNC said Mrs Clinton "has just taken the unprecedented step of becoming the first major party presidential candidate to be interviewed by the FBI as part of a criminal investigation surrounding her reckless conduct".
Mrs Clinton has struggled to get beyond the issue, which came to light last year during a Republican- led congressional investigation into the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. More than 30,000 e-mails have since been made public.
None of the e-mails on Mrs Clinton's private server had been marked classified at the time they were sent or received, but the Central Intelligence Agency later determined that some contained material that would be considered "top secret".
US federal law deems it a crime to "knowingly" mishandle classified data outside secure government channels or to allow the practice through "gross negligence".
There has been no indication that sensitive information was compromised by Mrs Clinton's use of a private server. But the issue has fed a perception that she was trying to hide information, chipping away at data gauging her trustworthiness.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last Wednesday found voters deemed Mr Trump more honest and trustworthy than Mrs Clinton by 45 per cent to 37 per cent.
Mr Trump sparked outrage last Saturday after calling Mrs Clinton corrupt in a tweet featuring the Jewish Star of David symbol.
The six-pointed star was superimposed on a pile of hundred-dollar bills with the message "most corrupt candidate ever!" - which many took as a potent anti-Semitic reference to stereotypes about Jews and money.
Mr Trump later deleted the tweet and replaced it with a new image that used a circle instead of a star.
NEW YORK TIMES