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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Live Coverage of FBI Director James Comey's Testimony on Clinton's E-Mails. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 7, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Director, the reason why that's so important is because of if top secret information is compromised, that could damage our national security, correct?

JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FBI: Yes, by definition...

DESANTIS: And American lives are at stake in some instances, correct?

COMEY: Yes.

DESANTIS: You mentioned, a lot of people are upset that there are no consequences for Secretary Clinton, but in your statement you pointed out that administrative and security consequences would be appropriate if someone demonstrated extreme carelessness for classified information. So for those consequences, that would include potentially termination of federal employment?

COMEY: Correct.

DESANTIS: It could include revocation of security clearance?

COMEY: Yes.

DESANTIS: It could include and ineligibility for future employment in national security positions?

COMEY: It could.

DESANTIS: Would you as the FBI Director allow someone, and employee of your agency to work in a national security capacity, if that person had demonstrated extreme carelessness in handling top- secret info?

COMEY: The answer to that is we would look very closely at that in a suitability determination. It's hard to answer in the abstract, "yes in all cases and no in all cases," but it would be a very important suitability scrub.

DESANTIS: So there would be instances where someone could be extremely careless and maintain competence? We have a lot of people who are competent in this country who would love to work for your agency, but yet, it would be potentially -- you would allow someone to be potentially careless and carry on?

COMEY: In the hypothetical, I can imagine if it was a long time ago, and it was a small amount of conduct or something -- that's why it's hard to say other than it would be a very important part...

DESANTIS: Let's put it this way. Would being extremely careless in handling top secret information expose an employee of the FBI to potential termination?

COMEY: Yes.

DESANTIS: Why shouldn't U.S. officials use mobile devices when traveling to foreign countries, especially if they're discussing classifying or sensitive information?

COMEY: Because the mobile device will transmit its signal across networks that are likely controlled or at least accessed by that hostile power.

DESANTIS: That's the guidance that the FBI gives all officials when they're traveling overseas? That's still good guidance, correct?

COMEY: That's good guidance.

DESANTIS: How did top secret information end up on the private server, because your statement addressed Secretary Clinton. You did not address any of her aides in your statement. Attorney general Lynch exonerated everybody. That information just didn't get there on its own, so how did it get there? Were you able to determine that?

COMEY: Yes, by people talking about a top secret subject in an e-mail communication.

DESANTIS: So...

COMEY: Not about forwarding a top secret document, it's about having a conversation about a matter that is top secret.

DESANTIS: And those were things that were originated by Secretary Clinton's aides and sent to her, which would obviously be in her server, but it was also included Secretary Clinton originating those e-mails, correct?

COMEY: That's correct.

In most circumstances, it initiated with aides starting the conversation. In the one involving top secret information, Secretary Clinton not only received but sent e-mails talking about the same subject.

DESANTIS: And of that top secret information you found, would somebody who is sophisticated in those matters, should it have been obvious to them that was sensitive information?

COMEY: Yes.

DESANTIS: So I guess my issue about knowledge of what you're doing is, in order for Secretary Clinton to have access to top secret, SCI FBI information, didn't she have to sign a form with the State Department acknowledging her duties and responsibilities under the law to safeguard this information?

COMEY: Yes. Anybody who gets access to SCI, Sensitive Compartmented Information would sign a read-in form that lays that out. I'm sure members of Congress have seen the same thing. DESANTIS: And it stresses in that document and other training people would get, that there are certain requirements to handling certain levels of information. For example, a top secret document, that can't even be on your secret system at the FBI, correct?

COMEY: Correct.

DESANTIS: So you have to follow certain guidelines. And I guess my question is, is she's very sophisticated person, she did execute that document, correct?

COMEY: Yes.

DESANTIS: And her aides who were getting the classified information, they executed similar documents to get a security clearance, correct?

COMEY: I believe so.

DESANTIS: And she knowingly clearly set up her own private server in order to -- let me ask you that, was the reason she set up her own private server in your judgment was because she wanted to shield communications from Congress and the public?

COMEY: I can't say that.

Our best information is that she set it up as a matter of convenience. It was an existing system her husband had and she decided to have a domain on that system.

DESANTIS: So the question is, is very sophisticated, this is information that clearly anybody who had knowledge of security information would know that it would be classified? But I'm having a little bit of trouble to see, how would you not then know that that was something that was inappropriate to do?

COMEY: Well, I just want to take one of your assumptions about sophistication. I don't think that our investigation established she was actually particularly sophisticated with respect to classified information and the levels and treatment, and so far as we can tell...

DESANTIS: Isn't she in an original classification of authority?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

DESANTIS: Good grief.

Well, I appreciate you coming. I yield back the balance of my time.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I thank the gentleman. I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record two documents that Mr. DeSantis referred to. One is the Sensitive Compartmented Information Nondisclosure agreement, the other one is the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement, both signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Without objection, so ordered.

I now recognize the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Clay, for five minutes.

REP. WILLIAM CLAY (D), MISSOURI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Director Comey, for being here today and for the professionals whom you lead at the FBI.

Two years ago, after my urgent request to then Former Attorney General Eric Holder for an expedited Justice Department investigation into the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, I witnessed first hand the diligence, professionalism, and absolute integrity of your investigators. And I have no doubt that was the case in this matter as well.

I did not think it was possible for the majority to exceed their unprecedented arrogant abuse of official channels and federal funds that we have witnessed over the past two years. As they have engaged in a partisan political witch hunt at taxpayer expense against Secretary Clinton. But I was wrong, this proceeding is just a sequel to that very bad act and the taxpayers will get the bill.

It's a new low, and it violates both house rules and the rules of this Committee. So with apologies to you and the FBI for this blatantly partisan proceeding, let me return to the facts of this case as you have clearly outlined them.

First question. Did Secretary Clinton or any member of her staff intentionally violate federal law?

COMEY: We did not develop clear evidence of that.

CLAY: Did Secretary Clinton or any member of her staff attempt to obstruct your investigation?

COMEY: We did not develop evidence of that.

CLAY: In your opinion, do the mistakes Secretary Clinton has already apologized for and expressed regret for, rise to a level that would be worthy of federal prosecution?

COMEY: As I said Tuesday, our judgment, not just mine, but the team's judgment at the FBI is that the Justice Department would not bring such a case. No Justice Department would under any --whether Republican or Democrat administration.

CLAY: Thank you for that response.

I know the FBI pays particular attention to groups by training agents and local law enforcement officers and participating in local hate crime working groups. Is that right?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

CLAY: Some of these organizations seem relatively harmless, but others appear to be very dangerous and growing. Some even promote genocide in their postings and rhetoric online. In your experience, how dangerous are these groups and have they incited violence in the past?

COMEY: I think too hard to answer, Congressman in the abstract, there are some groups that are dangerous, there are some groups that are exercising important protected speech under the First Amendment.

CLAY: Let me ask about it in a more direct question. A gentleman named Andrew England is the editor of a website called the Daily Stormer that is dedicated to the supremacy of the white race, as well as attacking Jews, Muslims, and others. The website features numerous posts with the hash #whitegenocide, to protest what they contend is an effort to eliminate the white race. Are you familiar with this movement?

COMEY: I'm not.

CLAY: Okay. Well, this hash tag has been promoted all over social media by a growing number of white supremacists. For example, one Nazi sympathizer tweeted repeatedly using the handle, @whitegenocidetm. Are you concerned that some groups are increasing their followers in this way, particularly if some of those followers could become violent?

COMEY: I don't know the particular enough to comment, Congressman.

We are always concerned when people go beyond protected speech, which we do not investigate, moving towards acts of violence. And so, our duty is to figure out when have people walked outside the First Amendment protection and are looking to kill folks or hurt folks.

I don't know enough to comment on the particular.

CLAY: I see.

Well, one of my biggest concerns is that certain public figures are actually promoting these groups even further, and as you may know, one of our most vocal candidates for president retweeted @whitegenocidetm. Three weeks later, he did it again. Two days after that, he retweeted a different user whose image also included the term white genocide, and that's not even all of them.

Director Comey, don't these actions make it easier for these racist groups to recruit even more supporters?

COMEY: I don't think I'm in a position to answer that in an intelligent way sitting here. CLAY: I appreciate you trying, and thank you, Mr. Director, for your exceptional principled service to our country.

I yield back.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you. We'll now recognize the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Ms. Lummis for five minutes.

REP. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R), WYOMING: Welcome, Director. Thank you so much for being here.

My phone has been ringing off the hook in my Washington office, in my Wyoming office -- from constituents who don't understand how this conclusion was reached. So I appreciate you being here to help walk us through it.

And here's the issue that the people that are calling me from Wyoming are having, they have access to this statute, it's Title XVIII U.S. Code 1924. I'm going to read you the statute, it says, "whoever being an officer employee, contractor, or consultant to the United States and by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year or both." Armed with that information, they're wondering how Hillary Clinton, who is also an attorney, and attorneys are frequently held to a higher standard of knowledge of the law, how this could not have come to her attention.

She was the Secretary of State. Of course, the Secretary of State is going to become possessed of classified materials. Of course, she was an attorney, she practiced with a prominent Arkansas law firm, the Rose Law Firm. She knew from her White House days with her husband, the President, that classified materials can be very dangerous if they get into the wrong hands.

She had to have known about this statute because she had to have been briefed when she took over the job as the Secretary of State. So how, given that body of knowledge and experience, could this have happened in a way that could have potentially provided access by hackers to confidential information?

COMEY: You know, it's a good question. A reasonable question.

The protection we have as Americans is that the government in general and in that statute in particular, has to prove before they can prosecute any of us, that we did this thing that's forbidden by the law. And when we did it, we knew we were doing something that was unlawful. We don't have to know the code number, but that we knew we were doing something that was unlawful. That's the protection we have, one I have worked for very hard.

When I was in the private sector, I did a lot of work with the Chamber of Commerce to stop the criminalization of negligence in the United States...

LUMMIS: Your know thought Mr. -- may I interrupt and suggest that, this statute says, "knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the attempt to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location." The intent here in the statute is to retain the documents at an unauthorized location. It's not intent to pass them on to a terrorist or to someone out in Internet land, it's just the intent to retain the documents or materials at an unauthorized location.

COMEY: It's more than that, though.

You would have to show that and prove criminal intent both by law, that's the way the judgment would instruct the jury, and practice by the Department of Justice. They have reserved that statute, even though it's just a misdemeanor, for people who clearly knew they were breaking the law, and that's the challenge.

So should have known, must have know, had to know -- does not get you there. You have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they knew they were engaged in something that was unlawful. That's the challenge.

LUMMIS: Then may I turn to her attorneys? Did all of Secretary Clinton's attorneys have the requisite clearances at the times they received all of her e-mails, especially those that were classified at the time they were sent?

COMEY: No.

LUMMIS: They destroyed, as has been noted, 30,000 e-mails of Secretary Clinton's. Do you have 100 percent confidence that none of the 30,000 e-mails destroyed by Secretary Clinton's attorneys was marked as classified?

COMEY: I don't have 100 percent confidence.

I'm reasonably confident some of them were classified. There were only three in the entire batch we found that bore any markings to indicate they were classified. So that's less likely, but surely, it's a reasonable assumption some of the ones they deleted contained classified information.

LUMMIS: Thank you, Director. Thank you, I yield back.

CHAFFETZ: I now recognize the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Lynch, for five minutes.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Director Comey, for appearing here to help the Committee with this work.

Director Comey, Secretary Clinton is certainly not the only Secretary of State to use a personal e-mail account with information later identified as being classified. I want to show you, this is a book that was written by Former Secretary of State Colin Powell. And in his book, he says, "to complement the official state department computer in my office, I installed a laptop computer on a private line. My personal e-mail account on a laptop allowed me to direct access to anyone online. So I started shooting e-mails to my principle assistants, to individual ambassadors, and increasingly, to my foreign minister colleagues who like me were trying to bring their ministries into the 186,000 miles per second world." Were you aware of this, that Secretary Colin Powell actually had a private server as well?

COMEY: Not a private server. I think he used a commercial e- mail account for state department business.

LYNCH: Private line? Unprotected?

COMEY: Correct. Not a State Department e-mail system.

LYNCH: Right.

COMEY: Right.

LYNCH: He went rogue, so to speak. Right?

COMEY: I don't know whether I would say that.

LYNCH: All right. I'm not going to put words in your mouth.

Do you think this was careless for him to do that, to start -- get his own system.? He installed a laptop computer on a private line. " My personal e-mail account was on a laptop and allowed me direct access to anyone. Anyone online." That's his own statement.

I'm just trying to compare Secretaries of State because Secretary Powell has never been here. As a matter of fact, when we asked him for his e-mails, unlike the 55,000 that we received from Secretary Clinton, he said, "I don't have any to turn over." This is a quote. This was on ABC this week. He explained, "I don't have any to turn over. I didn't keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files." But he was Secretary of State and he operated, you know, on a private system. Were you aware of that?

COMEY: Not at the time 15 years ago, but I am now.

LYNCH: Yes, okay.

So recently, well, back in October 2015, the State Department sent Secretary Powell a letter requesting that he contact his e-mail provider, AOL, to determine whether any of his e-mails are still on the unclassified systems. Are you aware of that ongoing investigation?

COMEY: I don't know of an investigation...

LYNCH: Well, that request for information from Secretary Powell, the former Secretary?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, I am.

LYNCH: You're aware of that. Are you surprised that he has never responded?

COMEY: I don't know enough to comment. I don't know exactly what conversation he had with the State Department.

LYNCH: I try to look at the -- where we have a lot of comparisons of other cases. And it seems like all the cases where prosecutions have gone forward, the subject of the investigation has demonstrated a clear intent to deliver classified information to a person or persons who were unauthorized to receive that.

So if you look at the, you know, PFC Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning, that was a court-martial, but he demonstrated a clear intent to publish that information, which was classified. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor I guess and publisher, again a wide and deliberate attempt to publish classified information. General Petraeus, which we talked about earlier today, shared information with his biographer. Jeffrey sterling, of the New York times and Former CIA Officer Kiriakou who was interested in writing a book, so he hung on to his information. And even Former Director of the CIA, John Deutsche, who retains classified information on a couple of servers, one in Belmont, Massachusetts, and one in Bethesda, Maryland, now that is after he became a private citizen.

So in all those cases, there's a clear intent. As you said before, you look at what people did and what they were thinking when they did that. And I would just ask you, is there a clear distinction between what those people did and what Secretary Clinton did in her case?

COMEY: In my view, yes. The Deutsche case illustrates it perfectly. He took huge amount of documents, almost all of the TS-CIA level, had them in hard copy at his house, had them on an unclassed system attached to the Internet, attempted to destroy some when he got caught. Admitted, "I knew I wasn't supposed to be doing this," -- clear intent, obstruction of justice. Those are the kind of cases that get prosecuted.

That's what I said and I meant it when I said it. In my experience, which is three decades, no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case. I know that frustrates people, but that's the way the law is, and that's the way the practice is in the Department of Justice.

LYNCH: Thank you for your testimony and for your service. I yield back.

CHAFFETZ: I thank the gentleman. We'll go to the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Meadows, for five minutes.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Comey, thank you. There has been much said today about criticizing you and your service. And I want to go on record that even though many of my constituents would love for me to criticize your service because of the conclusion you reached, never have I, nor will I criticize your service. And we appreciate your service to this country and the integrity.

So I'm going to focus on the things that you said, not the conclusion that you drew. And Congressman Trey Gowdy and I talked a little bit about this. On February 4th, 2016, Secretary Clinton during a presidential debate said, "I never sent or received any classified material. They are retroactively classifying it. " Close quote.

And so in your statement on July 5th, you said that, "there were indeed 110 e-mails, 52 e-mail chains which there was classified information on it at the time it was sent or received." So those two statements, both of them cannot be true. Is that correct, your statement and her statement.?

COMEY: It's not accurate to say that she did not send or receive classified...

MEADOWS: So she did not tell the truth during that presidential debate that she never sent or received classified information, and it was retroactively classified?

COMEY: I don't think that's a question I should be answering of what was her in head.

MEADOWS: Well, either your statement is not true or hers is not true. Both cannot be true. Is your statement true?

COMEY: That I can speak to.

MEADOWS: OK, so your statement is true, so the American people will have to judge with her statement not being true.

So let me go on to another one. On October 22nd, she said, "there was nothing marked classified on e-mails either sent or received," and in your statement, you said ,a" very small number of e- mails contained classified information, bore markings indicating the presence of classified information at the time." So she makes a statement that says there was no markings. You make a statement that there was. So her statement was not true?

COMEY: That one I actually have a little insight into her statement because we asked her about that. There were three documents that bore portion markings where you're obligated when something is classified to put a marking on that paragraph.

MEADOWS: Right.

COMEY: There were three that bore "c" which means that's confidential classified information. MEADOWS: So a reasonable person who has been a Senator, a Secretary of State, a First Lady, wouldn't a reasonable person know that that was a classified marking? As a secretary of state, a reasonable person? That's all I'm asking.

COMEY: Before this investigation, I probably would have said, yes. I'm not so sure. I don't find it incredibly...

MEADOWS: Director Comey, come on.

I mean, I have only been here a few years and I understand the importance of those markings. So you're suggesting that a long length of time that she had no idea what a classified marking would be? That's your sworn testimony today?

COMEY: No, no, not that she would have no idea what a classified marking would be, but it's an interesting question as to -- the question about sophistication came up earlier -- whether she was sophisticated enough to understand what a "c" means.

MEADOWS: So you're saying the former Secretary of State is not sophisticated enough to understand a classified marking?

COMEY: That's not what I said.

MEADOWS: That's a huge statement.

COMEY: That's not what I said. You asked me did I assume someone would know. Probably before the investigation, I would have, I'm not so sure of that answer any longer. I think it's possible -- possible that she didn't understand what a "c" meant when she saw it in the body of the e-mail like that.

MEADOWS: After years in the Senate and Secretary of State, I mean, that's hard for me and the American people to believe, Director Comey. And I'm not questioning your analysis of it, but wouldn't a reasonable person think that someone who has the highest job of handling classified information would understand that?

COMEY: I think that's the conclusion a reasonable person would draw. It may not be accurate...

MEADOWS: Let me go a little bit further, because that last quote actually came on October 22nd, 2015, under sworn testimony before the Benghazi Committee. So if she gave a sworn testimony, that a reasonable person would suggest is not truthful, isn't it a logical assumption she may have misled Congress, and we need to look at that further?

COMEY: Well, the reasonable person test is not what you look at for perjury or false statements. But like I said, I can understand why people would ask that question.

MEADOWS: All right.

So let me in the last little portion of this, in your three and a half-hour interview on Saturday, did she contradict some of these public statements in private? Because you said she didn't lie to the FBI, but it's apparent that she lied to the American people. So did she change her statements in that sworn testimony with you last Saturday?

COMEY: I haven't gone through that to parse that...

MEADOWS: Can you do that and get back to this Committee? It's important, I think to the American people and to transparency.

COMEY: I'm sure. And as the Chairman and I have talked about, I'm sure the Committee is going to want to see documents of our investigation and whatnot. And we'll work to give you whatever we can possibly give you under our law, but I haven't done that analysis at this point.

MEADOWS: Will you do that and get back to us?

CHAFFETZ: The gentleman's time has expired. We'll now recognize the gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Cooper, for five minutes.

REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Director Comey.

I hate to see one of America's most distinguished public servants pilloried before this Committee. We're all highly partisan here. We're a good back seat drivers. We're all today, apparently, armed chair prosecutors.

And you stated the truth when you said, "you didn't know of anyone who would bring a case like this". Some of the prosecutors have had the case to do that. I hope that this Committee's effort is not intended to intimidate you, or the FBI ,or law enforcement in general, or government employees. And I'm thankful at this moment that you have such a lifetime record of speaking truth to power because that's very important.

It's also very important that apparently you're a life-long Republican. You're just here to do your job, state the facts.

I think the key issue here is whether in fact there is a double standard, whether some Americans are being treated differently than others? I think I can rely on my Republican colleagues to make sure that Hillary Clinton is treated no better than anybody else. There should be some attention given to make sure she's not treated any worse than anybody else.

I think we all know that we wouldn't be having this hearing, especially on an emergency basis, unless she were running for President. My colleague from Massachusetts has just pointed out the previous Secretaries of State are not being called on the carpet, whether that be Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell, or others. But I think the grossest double standard here today is the fact that all of the members of this Committee, every member of Congress, is not subject to the same law that Secretary Clinton was subject to.

And as lawmakers, that means that we have exempted ourselves from the standard of other federal employees. My colleague from D.C., Ms. Norton, referred to this. Why did we exempt ourselves from the same rules? Apparently, our Chairman lists his private e-mail account on his business card. We all have access to classified information.

[11:30:05] I would like to challenge my Republican colleagues here today. Let's work together and introduce legislation to make the same laws apply to us as applied to the executive branch and to Secretary Clinton.