Even while defending his decision against recommending prosecution of Hillary Clinton, FBI Director James Comey made life no better for her from a political and public relations standpoint.
At one point in his long grilling by House Republicans Thursday, the 55-year-old ex-prosecutor was asked to define what he meant when he’d said Clinton, as secretary of state, was “extremely careless” about guarding sensitive emails.
“There’s accidents and there’s just, kind of, real sloppiness,” he replied in part. “I intended it as a common-sense term. You know it when you see it.”
Comey said just two days earlier that his probe explored whether Clinton’s personal computer server was “in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information . . . in a grossly negligent way.”
So Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) pressed Comey on the difference between the phrase “extremely careless” versus “gross negligence.”
“As a former judge, you know there isn’t a great definition in the law of gross negligence,” Comey replied. “Some courts interpret it as close to willful, which means you know you’re doing something wrong. Others drop it lower.”
Comey essentially explained his no-charges decision as a matter of how the Justice Department has treated that statute for its 99-year existence.
“When I look at the history of the prosecutions and see there’s been one case brought on a gross negligence theory,” he said, “I know from 30 years experience there’s no way anybody at the Department of Justice is bringing a case — against John Doe or Hillary Clinton — for the second time in a hundred years based on those facts.”
Loyalists for Clinton, who’s pitching her resume as proof of competence and experience, did their best to counter-spin Comey’s House testimony in real time.
“Trying to identify what GOP gained out of today,” tweeted Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “They got Comey to say Clinton was not tech-savvy. So there’s that, I guess.”
There’s this too: Comey confirmed information marked classified was found on Clinton’s server despite her having said she didn’t send or receive such items.
There were three markings of the letter ‘C’ indicating ‘confidential’ in the body of the text, he said.
Call it obscure stuff, if you wish, but it’s not helpful to Clinton.
To the degree that she may have made misleading or false statements in her own congressional testimony, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) warned, Comey should expect a referral in the future.
Call it partisan noise if you wish — but again, it’s not helpful to Clinton. Nothing about this storm would be.