Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) directly challenged FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, questioning if the Bureau understood the lengths human intelligence assets went to in order to collect information that was simply left unsecured on a server in Clinton’s basement. Hurd also challenged Democratic representatives’ assertions that the hearing was political theater and pointed out that Americans risked their lives to gather the information.
The House Oversight Committee called Director Comey in to testify following his announcement he would not be referring criminal charges against the former Secretary of State turned Democrat presidential candidate.
“I’m offended,” Representative Hurd began during his opening remarks on Thursday morning. “I’m offended by my political friends on the other side of the aisle who claim this is political theater. This is not political theater.”
Hurd previously served as an undercover officer in the CIA. “For me, this is serious,” he continued. “I spent nine and a half years as an undercover operative in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys collecting intelligence, passing it to lawmakers. I’ve seen my friends killed. I’ve seen assets put themselves in harm’s way. And this is about protecting information – the most sensitive information the American government has, and I wish my colleagues would take this a little more seriously.”
Following his passionate opening, the representative from west Texas began his line of questions for Director Comey. He asked the director if some of the information put at risk came from human assets who were putting themselves at risk in their service to our country. The information included “signals intelligence” that Hurd called “some of the most sensitive information we have to understand what terrorist organizations are planning and doing.
After confirming the director’s assertion that Secretary Clinton maintained an unauthorized email server in her basement, Hurd asked, “Who was protecting that information? Who was protecting that server?”
Director Comey, appearing uncomfortable in his answer, replied “Well, not much. There were a number of different people that were assigned as administrators of the server.”
Hurd then had the director confirm that at least seven or eight email strings included information that was marked “TS/SCI” (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information). The director confirmed that was correct.
Hurd sounded astonished as he asked, “So the former Secretary of State, one of the President’s most important advisors on foreign policy and national security, has a server in her basement that had information that was collected from our most sensitive assets, and that was not protected by anyone –and that’s not a crime?”
“That’s outrageous,” he exclaimed. “People are concerned. What does it take for someone to misuse classified information and get in trouble for it?”
The director paused and then responded, “It takes mishandling it, and then criminal intent.”
An exasperated Hurd chuckled under his breath and said, “So, an unauthorized server in the basement is not mishandling it?”
“Oh no,” the director replied. “There is evidence of mishandling. This whole investigation, at the end, focused on, ‘is there sufficient evidence of intent?’”
Comey stated the decision not to prosecute was a unanimous decision by his team of investigators.
The FBI director stated he took into account the reaction other government employees might take from the lack of prosecution. “Oh, I worry very much about that,” Comey responded. “An FBI employee might face severe discipline and I want them to understand that those consequences are still going to be there.”
Hurd asked, “Did this activity (by Secretary Clinton) you investigated make America’s secrets vulnerable to hostile elements?”
“Yes,” Comey replied.
“Do you think that pattern of behavior would continue?” Hurd continued. Comey appeared confused by the question. Hurd clarified asking, “Based upon what we see, do you think other elements within the federal government who will think it is okay to have an unauthorized server in their basement?”
“Well, they better not,” Comey responded.
Again Hurd pressed the director to explain how his failure to bring charges would in any way be seen as a deterrent to other employees who might want to do the same thing. Comey responded that it was “not fair” to prosecute Clinton “based on these facts.” He said it would be treating somebody differently because of their celebrity status. “We treat people fairly; we treat them the same based on their conduct.”