Early Comey drafts called Clin­ton ‘grossly neg­li­gent’

Se­na­tor ques­tions why phrase changed

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The FBI orig­i­nally planned to say that Hil­lary Clin­ton was “grossly neg­li­gent” in her han­dling of se­cret emails, a top se­na­tor said, revealing early drafts of the state­ment that James B. Comey drew up as FBI direc­tor.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, de­manded that the FBI de­tail why Mr. Comey nixed that phrase in later drafts.

Gross neg­li­gence would seem to be a high enough stan­dard to have pros­e­cuted Mrs. Clin­ton — though Mr. Comey ended up not rec­om­mend­ing charges, say­ing that while the for­mer first lady, se­na­tor and top diplo­mat was clue­less, he couldn’t prove she knew how badly she was risk­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Al­though Direc­tor Comey’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of his state­ment ac­knowl­edged that Sec­re­tary Clin­ton had vi­o­lated the statute pro­hibit­ing gross neg­li­gence in the han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, he none­the­less ex­on­er­ated her in that early, May 2nd draft state­ment any­way, ar­gu­ing that this part of the statute should not be en­forced,” Mr. Grass­ley said in a let­ter de­mand­ing an­swers from cur­rent FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray.

Mr. Grass­ley said the law gov­ern­ing mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion uses a gross neg­li­gence stan­dard, which would seem to snare Mrs. Clin­ton.

Mrs. Clin­ton used a se­cret email ac­count tied to a server she kept at her home in New York to do her of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment busi­ness. Hun­dreds of clas­si­fied emails were sent to and from her ac­count, in­clud­ing some la­beled as top se­cret.

The FBI in­ves­ti­gated and Mr. Comey said the breach of se­cu­rity was se­ri­ous, but he added that the Jus­tice Depart­ment had al­ways been re­luc­tant to make cases un­less it could prove some­one know­ingly in­tended to risk na­tional se­cu­rity.

It was re­vealed re­cently that Mr. Comey be­gan draft­ing an ex­on­er­a­tion of Mrs. Clin­ton well be­fore agents in­ter­viewed her or other key wit­nesses about her be­hav­ior.

The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee said as many as 17 wit­nesses were still await­ing in­ter­views when Mr. Comey be­gan draft­ing his state­ment.

Mr. Comey has said pub­licly that he de­cided to make a state­ment about Mrs. Clin­ton af­ter her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, had an air­port tar­mac meet­ing with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch in June 2016. He said he felt that com­pro­mised Ms. Lynch’s in­de­pen­dence.

Days af­ter the tar­mac meet­ing, Mr. Comey an­nounced the con­clu­sion of his probe into Mrs. Clin­ton, say­ing he wasn’t rec­om­mend­ing charges to the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Ms. Lynch quickly agreed, say­ing she ac­cepted his rec­om­men­da­tions.

But the fact that Mr. Comey be­gan draft­ing a pub­lic state­ment well be­fore the tar­mac meet­ing has spurred new ques­tions, and the changes in the state­ment will only feed those.

Mr. Grass­ley said he wants to see all it­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing meta­data, to try to fig­ure out when and why the changes were made.

In an orig­i­nal state­ment that Mr. Grass­ley says ap­pears to have been drafted May 2, Mr. Comey said there was “ev­i­dence to sup­port a con­clu­sion that Sec­re­tary Clin­ton, and oth­ers, used the pri­vate email server in a man­ner that was grossly neg­li­gent with re­spect to the han­dling of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey told Congress he couldn’t prove that Hil­lary Clin­ton knew how badly she was risk­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

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