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FBI Director Faces Congress Over Hillary Clinton Email Investigation


FBI Director James Comey spent much of today responding to angry lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Republicans wanted to know why Comey did not think Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for using a private email server while she was secretary of state even though he said she acted with extreme carelessness. Soon we'll hear about whether other federal employees would receive the same treatment. First here's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee say they're mystified about how Hillary Clinton could have walked away from the FBI investigation with no criminal charges. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, says he worries about a double standard.


JASON CHAFFETZ: It seems to a lot of us that the average Joe, the average American, that if they had done what you laid out in your statement, that they'd be in handcuffs. And they might be on their way to jail, and they probably should.

JOHNSON: This week the FBI concluded Clinton and her close aides at the State Department were extremely careless. Director James Comey says they should have known better than to conduct government business on an unsecure server set up at Clinton's home. Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina pressed the FBI director about Hillary Clinton's public claims.


TREY GOWDY: Secretary Clinton said she had never sent or received any classified information over her private email. Was that true?

JAMES COMEY: Our investigation found that there was classified information sent...

GOWDY: So it was not true.

JOHNSON: But the FBI director says there's no evidence Hillary Clinton lied to investigators in a three-and-a-half-hour interrogation last weekend. That interview was not recorded. Instead agents took notes that Republican lawmakers want to see. Democrats on the panel blasted their adversaries for engaging in political theater. Elijah Cummings of Maryland...


ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Today House Republicans are doing what they always do - using taxpayers' money to continue investigating claims that have already been debunked just to keep them in the headlines one more day.

JOHNSON: That left FBI Director Comey, a long-time Republican, searching for middle ground. During nearly five hours with no break, Comey insisted he's trying to do the right thing and protect public confidence in the justice system.


COMEY: We try very hard to apply the same standard whether you're rich or poor, white or black, old or young, famous or not known at all. I just hope folks will take the time to understand the other cases because a lot of confusion out there.

JOHNSON: The FBI considered several different laws in the Clinton probe. Comey identified one case in the past 100 years where prosecutors charged someone with gross negligence for mishandling classified documents.


COMEY: I know from 30 years with the Department of Justice, they have grave concerns about whether it's appropriate to prosecute somebody for gross negligence, which is why they've done it once, that I know of, in a case involving espionage.

JOHNSON: Republicans often argue another case is comparable to Clinton's, but Comey says it's actually not. He means a misdemeanor guilty plea by former CIA Director David Petraeus who passed information about war plans and covert operatives to his biographer and mistress. Again, James Comey...


COMEY: Not only shared with someone without authority to have it, but we found it in a search warrant. And then he lied to us about it during the investigation. So you have obstruction of justice. You have intentional misconduct and a vast quantity of information. He admitted he knew that was the wrong thing to do.

JOHNSON: Comey says his all-star team of agents spent a year investigating Clinton's email arrangement. And while no one will be prosecuted, Comey says there are other consequences for federal workers who mishandle secrets. At his FBI, he says, that could include losing a job, revoking a security clearance or being declared ineligible for future posts involving national security. Republican lawmakers are pressing for all of those things to happen to Clinton and her aides. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.