House Republicans on Thursday grilled FBI Director James Comey about his agency’s decision to not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton in the investigation over her emails, despite his scathing statements on Tuesday that she and her aides were “extremely careless” with classified materials.
From Comey’s declaration that Clinton did not lie to the FBI during its investigation to his repeated answers suggesting that her public statements about her private email use were not truthful, here are 15 of the top moments from the hearing:
1. Comey says Clinton server unauthorized to be in her New York home
Comey told House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that the physical location of Clinton’s server, in the basement of her Chappaqua, New York, home was “an unauthorized location for the transmitting of private information.”
“Is it reasonable or unreasonable to expect Hillary Clinton would receive and send classified information?” Chaffetz asked, to which Comey responded, “As secretary of state? Reasonable that the secretary of state would encounter classified information in the course of the secretary’s work.”
Remarking that the FBI had uncovered more than 100 classified emails that went through the same server, Chaffetz then asked whether Clinton possessed documents and materials with classified information through the private server.
“That is correct,” Comey said.
2. Comey says Clinton did not lie to FBI
“We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI,” Comey told Chaffetz during one of his opening exchanges, though the director declined to state whether Clinton lied publicly regarding her emails during her testimony before the House Benghazi Committee last October.
Comey defends decision not to recommend charges for Clinton
Comey also said Clinton did not lie under oath to the FBI.
3. Chaffetz promises referral to FBI on Clinton testimony
During the same exchange, Chaffetz inquired as to whether the FBI investigated Clinton’s statements to the Benghazi committee, including her declaration that there was “nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received.”
“Not to my knowledge. I don’t think there’s been a referral from Congress,” Comey responded, noting that such a probe would usually require a referral from Congress.
Chaffetz responded with a chuckle, “You’ll have one. You’ll have one in the next few hours.”
4. Comey answers to whether Clinton should get security clearance
“I don’t want to answer a hypothetical. The FBI has a robust process in which we adjudicate the suitability of people for employment in the bureau,” Comey told Chaffetz, who then asked whether, given his comments Tuesday excoriating Clinton and her staff for their handling of classified information, the former secretary of state would get an FBI security clearance.
“It would be a very important consideration in a suitability determination,” Comey told Chaffetz. “The Utah Republican remarked that Comey was “kind of making my point … because I injected the word Hillary Clinton, you gave me a different answer. But if I came up to you and said this person was extremely careless with classified information, exposure to hostile actors and used, despite a warning, created unnecessary burdens in exposure, if they said that they had one device and you found out that they had multiple devices, if there had been email chains with somebody like Jake Sullivan asking for classification changes, you’re telling me that the FBI would grant a security clearance to that person?”
Comey responded that he was not saying what his answer would be in that specific instance.
“Personally, I just think that sounds like a bit of a political answer because I can’t imagine that the FBI would grant security clearance to somebody with that fact pattern. Do you agree or disagree with that?” Chaffetz asked, and Comey reiterated that it would be a “very important consideration.”
5. “What do you mean by ‘wrong’?”
Chaffetz then asked, “Did Hillary Clinton do anything wrong?”
“What do you mean by ‘wrong’?” Comey asked in response.
Chaffetz remarked, “I think it’s self-evident.”
“Well, I’m a lawyer, I’m an investigator and I’m, I hope, a normal human being,” Comey said, as Chaffetz said, “Do you really believe there should be no consequence for Hillary Clinton in how she dealt with this?”
“Well, I didn’t say — I hope folks remember what I said on Tuesday. I didn’t say there’s no consequence for someone who violates the rules,” Comey said. “There are often very severe consequences in the FBI involving their employment, involving their pay, involving their clearances. That’s what I, that’s what I said on Tuesday, and I hope folks walk away understanding just because someone’s not prosecuted for mishandling classified information, that doesn’t mean if you work in the FBI, there aren’t consequences for it.”
If Clinton or anybody had done what the former secretary of state had at the FBI under the established fact pattern, Comey said there “would be a security review” and that “a range of discipline could be imposed from termination to reprimand and in between, suspensions, loss of clearance.”
“So you could be walked out, or you could be, depending upon the nature of the facts, you could be reprimanded,” Comey said. “There is robust process to handle that.”
6. Comey on how the Petraeus case was different
Speaking with the committee’s ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Comey rejected the notion that Gen. David Petraeus was pursued over “far less.”
Comey said that the conduct of Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of handling classified information as CIA director, “illustrates the categories of behavior that mark prosecutions that are actually brought.”
“Clearly intentional conduct. Knew what he was doing was violation of the law,” Comey said of the difference between Clinton and Petraeus. “Huge amounts of information if you couldn’t prove he knew, it raises the inference he did it, and effort to obstruct justice, that combination of things making it worthy of a prosecution. A misdemeanor prosecution but a prosecution nonetheless.”
Comey affirmed that he stood by the FBI’s decision to prosecute Petraeus and not the former secretary of state.
7. Gowdy gets Comey to say Clinton’s past statements not true
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) began his questioning of Comey with a series of inquiries pertaining to the accuracy of the former secretary of state’s testimony before the Benghazi committee last October and other public statements.
To Clinton’s assertion that she never sent or received information marked classified on her private email, Comey pointed to the investigation’s findings to the contrary.
“That’s not true. There were a small number of portion markings on I think three of the documents,” Comey said. (The State Department on Wednesday said that two of those documents were inadvertently marked.)
On Clinton’s statement that she did not email classified material to anyone, Comey responded, “There was classified email.”
“Secretary Clinton said she used just one device. Was that true?” Gowdy asked, to which Comey answered, “She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as secretary of state.”
Asked about Clinton’s claim that all work-related emails were returned to State, Comey said that was not true.
As far as Clinton’s statement that neither she nor anyone else deleted work-related emails from her personal account, Comey said that was “a harder one to answer,” as investigators found traces of work-related emails “on devices or in slack space, whether they were deleted or on a server that was changed out or something else happened to them.”
“Secretary Clinton said her lawyers read every one of the emails and were overly inclusive. Did her lawyers read the email content individually?” Gowdy asked. Comey responded, “No.”
8. Comey rebuts Trump, says there was no bribe
Even as she prefaced her question by calling it “ridiculous,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Comey whether Donald Trump’s claim that the FBI’s recommendation against charges came as a result of a promise made to Attorney General Loretta Lynch could stay on if Clinton is elected president was true.
“No,” Comey responded.
9. Clinton was not “sophisticated” with classified information, despite her stature
Speaking with Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Comey disputed the Republican lawmaker’s assumption that Clinton was well-versed in the world of classification levels and related information.
“I don’t think that our investigation established she was actually particularly sophisticated with respect to classified information and the levels and treatment,” Comey said.
“Isn’t she an original classification authority though?” DeSantis asked, to which Comey responded, “Yes, Sir, yes, Sir.”
DeSantis exclaimed, “Good grief.”
10. Clinton may not have known about classified markings
Comey again referenced Clinton’s lack of sophistication during an exchange with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who asked the FBI director whether he meant to say that the secretary of state “is not sophisticated enough to understand a classified marking.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Comey answered. “You asked me, did I assume that someone would know. Probably before this investigation, I would have. I’m not so sure of that answer any longer. I think it’s possible — possible — that she didn’t understand what a ‘(c)’ meant went she saw it in the body of an email like that.”
Meadows then asked Comey whether a “reasonable person” would think that someone of Clinton’s stature would understand that.
“I think that’s a conclusion a reasonable person would draw, it may not be accurate,” Comey remarked, “but that’s what folks would say.”
11. No ‘sufficient’ evidence that Clinton knew she was sending classified information
“We did not find evidence sufficient to establish that she knew she was sending classified information beyond a reasonable doubt to meet the intent standard,” Comey explained.
While acknowledging that he understood why people “are confused by the whole discussion,” Comey said. “But you know what would be a double standard? If she were prosecuted for gross negligence,” he remarked, in reference to repeated comments from Republicans on the panel noting a perceived double standard for the Clintons.
He added, “I think she was extremely careless. I think she was negligent. That I could establish. What we can’t establish that she acted with the necessary criminal intent.
12. Comey is no longer a registered Republican
Comey, who served in George W. Bush’s administration before being appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, revealed that he is no longer registered with the Republican Party.
“Although our politics are different — I gather you’re a Republican — that correct?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked.
Comey, who donated to both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, responded, “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer.”
13. Clinton should have known better
“Is it your statement, then, before this committee that Secretary Clinton should have known not to send classified material and yet she did?” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) asked as the hearing extended to its third hour.
“Certainly she should have known not to send classified information,” Comey said. “As I said, that’s the definition of negligent. I think she was extremely careless. I think she was negligent. That I could establish. What we can’t establish is that she acted with the necessary criminal intent.”
14. Emails were not properly classified
Asked about the three documents with the “c” markings suggesting that the lines included classified information, Comey told Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) that they were not properly marked in accordance with the State manual.
“According to the manual, if you’re going to classify something, there has to be a header on the document, right?” Cartwright asked, to which Comey responded in the affirmative.
Asked whether there was a header that contained the “c” in the text, Comey said the “c” denoting classified material “was in the body in the text but there was no header on the email or in the text.”
“So if Secretary Clinton really were an expert at what’s classified and what’s not classified and we’re following the manual, the absence of a header would tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified,” Cartwright remarked. “Am I correct in that?”
Comey called it a “reasonable inference.”
15. Comey said Clinton gave non-cleared people access to classified information
As the hearing wound down, Chaffetz asked Comey whether Clinton’s attorneys had the security clearances needed to go through her emails, the FBI director answered that they did not.
Asked whether that concerned him, Comey responded, “Oh yeah, sure.”
Moments later, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted, “To be clear, the lawyers who sorted through Clinton’s emails had Top Secret-level clearance.”
Clinton’s personal attorney David Kendall said last August that he had received Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance from the Justice Department and Top Secret clearance from State, noting that his law partner, Katherine Turner, received State clearance in September 2014. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) later wrote to the State Department to indicate that the clearances are inadequate to have received the information from Clinton.
As he concluded his questioning, Chaffetz asked whether Clinton gave “non-cleared people access to classified information.”
“Yes,” Comey said, repeating, “Yes.”
“What do you think her intent was?” Chaffetz followed up, continuing his line of questioning about Clinton’s intent.
“I think that was to get good legal representation and to make the production to the State Department,” Comey said. “I think it would be a very tall order in that circumstance, if I don’t see the evidence to make a case that she was acting with criminal intent in her engagement with her lawyers.”