WASHINGTON, D.C. — FBI Director James Comey indicated to lawmakers that average Americans or government employees, including those at his agency, who are found to be extremely careless in handling highly classified information like Hillary Clinton was would be “in trouble,” but not prosecuted.
“Don’t do it,” later added the FBI chief.
Comey’s comments came in reply to questions from Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) posed at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday focused on oversight of FBI operations.
Although the FBI director acknowledged he found “evidence” that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might have violated laws pertaining to the handling of classified information, he determined earlier this year there was insufficient proof of intent to prosecute her.
He came to that conclusion after finding that Clinton acted “extremely carelessly” in handling classified information on her private email as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.
On Wednesday, Rep. Farenthold asked:
How do you respond to people who are saying that this is not how an average Americans would be treated, this only how Hillary Clinton would be treated?
The FBI director said in responding:
Jane and Joe Smith would not be prosecuted on these facts. Now you’d be in trouble, that’s the other thing I’ve had to explain to the FBI workforce. If you use an unclassified email system to do our business and in the course of doing our business talk about classified topics, you would be in big trouble with the FBI. I’m highly confident of that. I’m also highly confident, in fact certain, you would not be prosecuted.
In a joking manner, Rep. Farenthold suggested he would cite Comey’s response if he were to get in trouble for mishandling classified information.
Something similar is already occurring in the court rooms.
“I’m confident that you wouldn’t [be prosecuted]… Don’t do it. Don’t do it, but I guess I can’t control Congress. If you work for us don’t do it,” reiterated Comey in response to the Congressman’s question, later adding:
You can call us wrong. You can call me a fool. You cannot call us weasels, okay. That is just not fair. We hopefully have not gotten to a place in public life where everything has to be torn down on integrity basis just to disagree. You can disagree with this — there is just not a fair basis for saying that we did it [handled Clinton’s email scandal] in any way that wasn’t honest and independent.
Some government employees, including members of the military, have been prosecuted in connection to cases similar to the one that involved Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
A lawyer representing Maj. Jason Brezler, a decorated U.S. Marine who is being discharged for sending classified information on his personal email account, has now said he intends to cite the precedent set by Clinton’s case as part of his defense approach.
Meanwhile, U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier cited the Hillary Clinton precedent in his defense, but was still convicted on a felony charge for taking photos of classified systems inside a submarine and sentenced to one year in prison and a $100 fine.
In July, Comey said that it would be a “double standard” to prosecute Clinton.
The director elaborated on that point when questioned by Farenthold.
Without explicitly denying the existence of new evidence, Comey maintained Wednesday that Clinton did not break any laws, adding that he is not planning on reopening the FBI case against her.
Comey’s entire response to the Republican Congressman’s question about whether average Americans would be treated any differently by the FBI if they mishandled classified information in the same manner that she did:
When people tell you that, that others have been treated differently, demand from a trustworthy source the details of those cases. Because I made a very aggressive investigator, I was a very aggressive prosecutor. I have gone back through 40 years of cases and I’m telling you under oath that to treat– to prosecute on these facts, would be a double standard because Jane and Joe Smith would not be prosecuted on these facts. Now you’d be in trouble. That’s the other thing I’ve had to explain to the FBI workforce. You use an unclassified email system to do our business and in the course of doing our business talk about classified topics, you would be in big trouble with the FBI. I’m highly confident of that. I’m also highly confident, in fact certain, you would not be prosecuted. That’s what folks tend to lump together.