As noted in the last blog (1) posted at this site, FBI Director James Comey announced that as the result of the Bureau’s year-long investigation, he could not find a basis for leveling criminal charges against Hillary Rodham Clinton over the manner in which she handled sensitive documents during her tenure as Secretary of State.
Comey’s decision set off a firestorm in conservative circles, so certain were they that the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee was guilty and qualified for an orange jump suit. Like a junkyard dog who clamps on your ankle and refuses to let go, congressional Republicans demanded that Comey appear before them and explain how he came to his judgment that was so completely at odds with theirs.
On July 7th, the FBI director came voluntarily to appear before the House Government Oversight Committee, whose majority is made up of Republicans with minority Democrat representation. All Committee members had an opportunity to question Mr. Comey so it is not surprising that overall, his interrogation lasted for just over four hours (2).
In the course of responding to questions, the Director repeated what he had said in his announcement that HRC would not be criminally charged; i.e. that in her handling of sensitive documents (some marked “classified”), the evidence indicated that she had exhibited “great carelessness” and was “negligent”. Mr. Comey went on to add that said mishandling could have led to a hacking of the former Secretary’s computer system but found nothing to indicate that had happened.
In reaction to the immediate foregoing, one after another Republican issued a rebuttal based on the notion that common sense would dictate that a person who had been so careless and negligent ought to be criminally guilty. That is when Director Comey turned to the law and the Latin phrase mens rea. Translated, it means “What was the person thinking?” which is to ask “What was the person’s intent?” Expounding on this theme, Comey went into great detail in explaining how his investigation repeatedly failed to turn up evidence that HRC knew that what she was doing was wrong; i.e. that she knowingly broke the law and tried to cover that up. Absent proof of intent, there was no basis for an indictment.
It was especially during this portion of the hearing that the Director acquitted himself as a man of integrity and honesty who was following the law even as “common sense” (see above) might have prompted him to do otherwise. He stated categorically that he welcomed the Committee’s questioning because it gave him the opportunity to explain to the American people why, in this particular case, the law rather than common sense had to prevail. He urged citizens to get the facts and not come to conclusions based on superficial impressions.
By hearing’s end, it was obvious that Committee Republicans were not satisfied and that they saw at least one avenue they would use to continue their attack on HRC. So, this matter is not at an end and one can confidently predict that it will run on right up to and through this November’s election. Indeed, it would not be surprising if it followed HRC into the White House should she be elected president.
1. See “The Latest in a Long List of Failures”.
2. Your blogger watched the hearing in its entirety. The contents of this blog are based on his recollections which he refreshed and fact-checked with newspaper accounts of the hearing and video-tapes of it.