(National Sentinel)Â The Swamp: Former FBI Director James Comey carefully chose his words when he exonerated then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last summer to avoid calls for her indictment.
As reported byÂ The Hill, an early draft of Comey’s statement to the press when announcing he would not recommend charges against her accused the former secretary of state of having been “grossly negligent” in her handling of classified information, newly reported memos to congressional panels indicate.
But that language was later changes to a much milder accusation; when he read his press statement, Comey said Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified documents.
That’s a significant change because federal law is explicit in stating that gross negligence is the standard for criminal prosecution of anyone who mishandles classified data. Those convicted of such crimes face both prison time and hefty fines.
The draft, written weeks before the announcement of no charges, was described by multiple sources who saw the document both before and after it was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee this past weekend.
â€œThere is evidence to support a conclusion that Secretary Clinton, and others, used the email server in a manner that was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified information,â€ reads the statement, one of Comeyâ€™s earliest drafts from May 2, 2016.
At the time of Comey’s press conference — July 2016 — legal experts and former federal prosecutors remarked that the FBI director was using language — “extremely careless” — that has never been the defining characteristic in criminal prosecutions where classified information has been mishandled.
The sources who had seen the early draft, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the draft statement was subsequently changed in red-line edits on or around June 10 to conclude that the handling of 110 emails containing classified information that were transmitted by Clinton and her aides over her insecure personal email server was â€œextremely careless.â€
Memos show that at least three top FBI officials were involved in helping Comey fashion and edit the statement, including Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, General Counsel James Baker and chief of staff Jim Rybicki.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to current FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding to know who made the edits and why.
â€œApparently, as of May 2016, then-Director Comey and other FBI officials believed the facts fit that gross negligence standard until later edits were made,â€ Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to Wray in the letter demanding more information.
Others who saw the early draft say the revisions are likely to renew debates over Comey’s fitness for his job. Others noted that change clearly indicates that President Donald J. Trump was right to fire Comey earlier this year.
â€œThe red-line history clearly shows the original statement was designed to allege Clinton committed gross negligence and then someone changed it to extreme carelessness,â€ one source said. â€œClearly there was a difference of opinion on the term derived right from the statute.â€
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