Testifying before Congress on Thursday, FBI Director James Comey remained steadfast in his assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted for mishandling classified information in connection to her private email scandal. However, his assessment of Clinton’s actions was scathing at times.
After recently describing Clinton’s actions as only “extremely careless,” Comey took it up a notch under questioning from lawmakers.
“Certainly, she should have known not to send classified information,” Comey said. “As I said, that’s the definition of ‘negligent.’ I think she was extremely careless, I think she was negligent. That I could establish.”
What couldn’t be established during the investigation, the FBI chief added, was that Clinton acted with the “necessary criminal intent,” which he said is how similar cases have always been prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
Comey later questioned whether Clinton was “sophisticated” enough to understand and identify classified markings.
“It’s an interesting question as to whether…she was actually sophisticated enough to understand what a ‘c’ in parens means,” Comey said.
“So, you’re saying the former of secretary of state is not sophisticated enough to understand a classified marking?” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) asked.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” he responded. “You asked me did I assume that someone would know. Probably before this investigation I would have. I’m not so sure of that answer any longer.”
Comey went on to say it is “possible” that Clinton didn’t understand what a “c” classified marking meant when she saw it in the body of an email.
When asked directly if Clinton's mishandling of classified information and using mobile devices overseas made "America’s secrets vulnerable to hostile elements," Comey immediately replied, "Yes."
Comey's appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee marked his first public statements since an FBI announcement that removed the threat of criminal charges against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee but also revived public scrutiny of her handling of classified information.
During the hearing, Comey emphatically denied that he coordinated his decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton with the White House or anyone else.
Comey said the agency tried hard to make a case against Hillary Clinton but ultimately concluded there was no case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.