Members of Congress on Thursday issued a letter to Director Cristopher Wray that questions edits made to a statement in the Clinton email investigation that appear to change statements of criminal finding into watered-down exculpatory remarks.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent the letter in which he points out two key changes in former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information on a private email server. The changes appear to intentionally decriminalize the actions of Hillary Clinton and her staff.
1. Repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton’s culpability in mishandling classified information
The original draft of Director Comey’s remarks included a statement that could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified material:
There is 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 information.
The edited statement deleted the reference to gross negligence – a legal threshold for mishandling classified material and instead replaced it with an excelpatory sentence:
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
This change appeared in the statement as Director Comey delivered it on July 5, 2016.
Further, the original draft of Directory Comey’s statement connected the volume of classified material on Secretary Clinton’s private server with a finding of criminality. It read:
Similarly, the sheer volume of informaiton that was properly classified as Secret at the time it was discussed on email (that is, excluding the “up classified” emails) supports an inference that the participants were grossly negligent in their handling of that information.
This statement was edited to deemphasize the amount of classified information and, again, to remove a reference to gross negligence. The edited version read:
In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on email (that is, excluding the ‘up classified emails).
The edited version also contained a sentence that read, “This is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on servers not supporterd by full-time security staff, like those found at the Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government.” This sentence was not included in the statement as delivered by Director Comey on July 5.
Rep. Johnson put significant emphasis on the changing of the term “gross negligence” in Comey’s statement.
Section 793 of federal law states [emphasis added], “Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer — shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”