FBI Director James Comey opened his Thursday testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with a fierce defense of his decision not to recommend prosecuting Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information.
“I hope at the end of the day, people can disagree, can agree, but they will at least understand that 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,” Comey said.
Comey specifically hit back against an argument put forward by some conservatives, including Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, that Clinton committed “gross negligence.”
Comey said that since the statute making gross negligence a crime was passed in 1917, it has only been used by the Department of Justice once in a case of espionage. He said that at the time of the statute’s passage, there were concerns that the statute would “violate the American tradition of requiring that before you lock somebody up, you prove they knew they were doing something wrong.”
“So when I look at the facts, I see evidence of great carelessness, but 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, they were doing something that was against the law,” he continued. “So given that assessment of the facts, my understanding of the law, my conclusion was and remains no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.”
He added that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring the second case in 100 years focused on gross negligence.”
“So I know that’s been a source of some confusion for folks. That’s just the way it is. I know the Department of Justice. I know no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case,” Comey said. “A lot of former friends are saying they would. I wonder where they were the last 40 years, because I would like to see the cases they brought on gross negligence. Nobody would, nobody did.”