FBI Director James Comey admitted that an FBI employee doing what Hillary Clinton did with classified material while Secretary of State would “be in big trouble” and would be “disciplined.”
However Comey, speaking at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, defended his decision not to recommend the DOJ prosecute the Democratic presidential nominee.
He also bristled at any suggestion that Clinton faced a double standard or that his agents were influenced by politics, and suggested that GOP criticism of the way the FBI handled the case was motivated purely by a political agenda and the desire to influence the upcoming election.
“I hope some day when this political craziness is over you will look back again on this, because this is the FBI you know and love,” Comey said. “This was done by pros in the right way. That’s the part I have no patience for.”
Comey flatly dismissed the idea that Clinton herself should be prosecuted, and attempted to defend the way the FBI handled the case.
Comey expressed frustration that FBI agents were being criticized as biased or as having succumbed to political pressure, saying he has “no patience” for such accusations.
“I knew there were going to be all kinds of rocks thrown, but this organization and the people who did this are honest, independent people,” Comey said. “We do not carry water for one side or the other ‒ that’s hard for people to see because so much of our country, we see things through sides.”
“We are not on anybody’s side,” he added.
“You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels,” he told lawmakers. “We are honest people and… whether or not you agree with the result, this was done the way you want it to be done.“
Republican legislators focused a large portion of their questions on the various immunity agreements extended in the Clinton investigation, including those recently revealed for top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. Comey said the five agreements in the case were “fairly typical in a complex, white-collar case especially,” and Mills and Samuelson were only granted immunity related to computers they turned over to agents.
Republican legislators also asked about posts on Reddit by Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who worked on Clinton’s server, soliciting advice in 2014 about removing a VIP’s email address from archived messages. The legislators said that seemed obviously to refer to Clinton and might have been evidence of a coverup.
Comey said investigators had looked at the posts, and he noted that nothing was deleted after the FBI began investigating.
Combetta deleted a batch of emails in 2015 after a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, had requested they be preserved, and Comey made clear Monday that Combetta wanted — and received — immunity because of that.
“That’s why the guy wouldn’t talk to us without immunity,” Comey said. But Comey said investigators determined that “no one had directed him to do that.” Comey said investigators found credible Combetta’s account that he had been told to delete the emails the year before and — having realized he failed to do so — went back and did it on his own after he was required to preserve the records. Comey acknowledged, though, that Combetta gave investigators various accounts about his deletion of the emails in two interviews. A Platte River lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment.