Saying the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) didn't “give a hoot about politics,” FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress Thursday that he didn't recommend bringing criminal charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because she didn't knowingly send and receive classified information via email.
“I do not see evidence that is sufficient to establish that Secretary Clinton or those with whom she was corresponding both talked about classified information on email and knew when they did it, that they were doing something that was against the law,” Comey told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) reiterated contentions that he's “mystified” by the bureau's decision.
Lawmakers also posited that Clinton could have been prosecuted under the “gross negligence” standard of the U.S.Penal code, but Comey again reiterated that knowledge of a wrong-doing is a key determinant in recommending charges. The bureau shied from jailing those accused “unless we prove that they knew they were doing something they shouldn't do,” he said. Comey contended that he felt Clinton was being truthful with investigators during a more than three-hour interview last Saturday.
“We believe that you have set a precedent, and it's a dangerous one,” Chaffetz told the FBI head. “The precedent is that if you sloppily deal with classified information, if you are cavalier about it, and it wasn't just an innocent mistake and this went on for years, then there is going to be no consequence.”
When grilled by an animated Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas), Comey firmly responded that the guidelines for prosecution should be applied equally, noting that the FBI was not going to recommend prosecution for someone based on their celebrity status.
In preface of the hearing Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) referred to the gathering as ridiculous and indicating the “hastily-convened” meetup was premature, invoking vice presidential candidate Admiral Stockdale's famous entreaty on national TV of “Who am I? Why am I here?”
“We on the Oversight Committee are politicians, not federal prosecutors or FBI agents,” Lieu said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com. “Why are we wasting taxpayer resources to second guess the professional judgment of a man of high integrity, FBI Director Comey, based on evidence none of us have even reviewed? This is ridiculous.”During the hearing, Lieu, a former prosecutor in the U.S. Air Force and one of a handful of legislators with a degree in computer science, underscored those comments, saying the “sound and the fury” from the committee largely signifies “nothing” because “none of the members of this committee can be objective on this issue” and none “have any idea what we are talking about because we have not reviewed the evidence personally in this case.”
The Clinton campaign took to Twitter during the hearing with campaign spokesman Brian Fallon at one point tweeting as "new facts from the hearing" that "Comey agrees convenience was HRC's reason for setup" and that the FBI director "doesn't believe HRC instructed lawyers doing sorting."
Fallon also tweeted a link to two of the marked emails. "State has said both were marked in error," he said.
Comey's testimony comes a day after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, beseeching him to withhold confidential intelligence information from Clinton for the duration of her campaign after she secures the Democratic nomination this summer.