By Bonnie K. Goodman
FBI Director James Comey appeared in front of a Congressional hearing and defended the agency’s decision not to prosecute former Secretary Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. Comey testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in a hearing conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where he was the only witness and lasted four hours.
The hearing focused on whether Clinton lied to the FBI about her handling of classified information during her tenure while using a private email server for official State Department business. Jason Chaffetz, the GOP chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was looking to establish that Clinton perjured herself in her previous testimony on her email server for the House Benghazi Committee last year.
Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that Clinton was treated differently because she is the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Chaffetz indicated, “We are mystified and confused by the fact pattern that you laid out and the conclusions that you reached.” Continuing Chaffetz said, “It seems to a lot of us that the Average Joe, the average American, that if they had done what you laid out in your statement, that they would be in handcuffs, and they might be on their way to jail. I think there is a legitimate concern that there is a double standard. If your name isn’t Clinton and you are not part of the powerful elite, that Lady Justice will act differently.”
Comey was insistent the FBI’s decision would have been the same for anyone in a similar position. The FBI director adamantly said, “The decision was made, and the recommendation was made the way you would want it to be by people who didn’t give a hoot about politics but who cared about what are the facts, what is the law and how have similar people, all people, been treated in the past.”
The FBI director also clarified the decision not to prosecute was not politically motivated or any coordination with the Obama administration. Comey expressed, “I believe this investigation was conducted consistent with the highest traditions of the FBI. Our folks did it in an apolitical and professional way including our recommendation as to the appropriate resolution of this case.” Comey also told Rep. John Mica (R-Calif.), “I say that under oath, I stand by that. There was no coordination. There was an insinuation in what you were saying that.”
The FBI director, however, admitted Clinton did send three emails with classified information from her private server contradicting her previous testimony to the Benghazi committee and her public statements. Comey, when pressed in the hearing, said, “That is not true. There were a small number of portion markings on, I think, three of the documents.” When he was asked by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), if Clinton previous statement were accurate, that she did not send “any classified material to anyone on my email” and “there is no classified material,” Comey admitted, “There was classified material.”
Democrats and the Clinton campaign dismissed the GOP latest attack on their nominee. Ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings said, “Amazingly, some Republicans who were praising you just days ago for your independence and integrity and honesty instantly turned against you because your recommendation conflicted with the predetermined outcome they wanted.” While Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted, “House GOP clearly treating FBI Director Comey as a hostile witness #Overreach.”