Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray late Monday afternoon demanding to know why early versions of former FBI Director James Comey's statement exonerating Hillary Clinton strongly indicated she had violated federal law by hosting and sharing top secret information on a personal email server. In Comey's final statement, which he delivered in July 2016, that language was changed.
“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,” Grassley said.
From the letter, which details how the statement changed:
On November 3, 2017, the FBI provided documents in response to the Committee’s August 30, 2017, letter requesting records relating to then-Director Comey’s statement exonerating Secretary Clinton from criminal wrongdoing. Among those documents, the FBI provided what appears to be a May 2, 2016, draft of the exoneration statement, two months before Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 press conference. In that draft, the original language is shown to have included the following sentence:
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 material.
That same draft also included the following sentence:
Similarly, the sheer volume of information 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.
As you are aware, 18 U.S.C. § 793(f) makes the mishandling of classified material through gross negligence a criminal act. 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.
Apparently, as of May 2016, then-Director Comey and other FBI officials believed the facts fit that gross negligence standard until later edits were made on or about June 10, 2016, removing those two sentences and including the following sentence instead:
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.
Grassley is now seeking all documents and information about conversations surrounding edits of the statement. He also wants to see each version of the draft remarks.
Comey drafted Clinton's exoneration statement in May 2016, months before Clinton and a number of other key witnesses in the FBI criminal case were interviewed and long before agents were finished with their investigation.