I watched the bulk of the Comey hearings yesterday.
First, I commend the Comey for showing up, for his 5-hour mental-physical stamina, for his recall of specifics and, with a couple of exceptions, his apparent forthrightness.
Second, too bad that Chaffetz and Gowdy couldn’t have all the GOP time for questions. They provided the most revealing moments.
Specifically, here are my takeaways.
Intent: Clearly Clinton was trying to shield her correspondence from the public record in violation of Federal policies. She had knowledge of the policies based on her experience and acknowledged in signed statements. Further, as Secretary of State, she must have known that some of her correspondence would be classified – which upped the ante from Departmental policy to breaking Federal law.
Gowdy did a masterful job laying out the circumstantial case for intent … starting with the 4-year “scheme” and then sequentially running though Clinton’s lies – from 1-device through “never sent nor received”. And, he pointed out that “exculpatory lies” are a common basis for demonstrating intent.
One Congressman opined: “I’m and former judge and tried thousands of cases where the prosecutor’s evidence of intent was way weaker than in this case”.
Perjury: Comey and Chaffetz’s faces told the story when Chaffetz asked: “Did you review her sworn testimony to Congress?”
To his credit, Comey fessed up and said “no”.
But, the exchange raises questions about the thoroughness of the self-measured comprehensiveness of the investigation and gives the GOP an opening: Clinton’s perjury under oath.
In absentia: Jaws dropped when Comey admitted that he hadn’t attended the Clinton-FBI interview, that the interview wasn’t under oath, that there was no recording nor transcript and that he hadn’t spoken to all of the agents who were present. Really?
Side note: I wish that someone had asked: “Did you personally interview Secretary Clinton at any point in the investigation?” On good source, I think the answer would have been “yes” — which would have opened another can of worms.
Precedent: Comey asserts that a driving factor was that there was no exact precedent for prosecution in cases like this. Gowdy hit the nail on the head when he said: “So, another person can do the same thing and not be prosecuted because there is till no precedent, right?”
Comey’s answer was a weak: “Not necessarily”.
My question: How can any law be enforeced? Seems that there can never be a first prosecution because of a lack of precedent.
“Reasonable” prosecutors: At one point, Comey slipped up and said “no way the DOJ would take the case forward”. That was more truthful and more specific than “no reasonable prosecutor”.
He then caught himself and morphed back to “no DOJ” and the original “no reasonable prosecutor”.
Lawyers without clearances: Comey was clearly knocked off balance when Chaffetz pointed out that (1) all of Clinton’s emails were initially on the server (2) she must have known that some of the Secretary of State emails contained classified information (3) all of the emails were reviewed by her attorneys to sort the personal ones from the work-related ones (4) the attorneys did not have security clearances to handle classified information.
In other words, Clinton intentionally passed classified information to individuals without security clearances.
It was obvious that Comey’s investigation missed that point entirely.
FBI Hiring criteria: Comey cast forthrightness to the wind when he was asked if the FBI would hire, retain or promote someone who had demonstrated the same “careless handling” of classified information. Comey’s answer: “it depends on the context”.
“Unsophisticated”: My jaw dropped when Comey said that Clinton is “not as sophisticated in these matters” as the Congressmen were imputing.
Later, he tried to clarify: “not sophisticated in handling classified information”.
That may be worse … and will certainly be a counter-point to Hillary’s experiential claims.
I doubt that the session changed many minds, but it became evident (at least to me) that the FBI got lost in the weeds (e.g. digitally reconstructing emails) and missed some of the big picture elements of the case (e.g. the “uncleared” lawyers and Clinton’s statements under oath).
The latter opens another Pandora’s box, but … perjury is hard to prove … I can see the Comey-logic: “no intent to lie, at the time she believed, blah-blah-blah.”
I would have been more impressed if Comey had testified: “Listen, enough evidence to prosecute, but not enough to change the course of history. Let the people decide.”