FBI Director James Comey told a Congressional committee Thursday that Hillary Clinton's actions regarding her private email setup did not meet the standard of prosecution.
"There is not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she was using classified information or intended to retain it on her server," Comey told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "But when I said there is not clear evidence of intent, I cannot, even if the Department of Justice brought that case, I could not prove those elements."
The director was peppered with questions by Republicans who were upset with his decision not to recommend charges be brought against Clinton for mishandling classified information.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday she will follow the FBI's lead and not bring charges, and she will likely face a similar grilling on Capitol Hill next week in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
In his opening statement, Comey pointed out that his investigation was nonpartisan and professional.
"I believe this investigation was conducted consistent with the highest traditions of the FBI," Comey said.
"Our folks did it in an apolitical and professional way, including our recommendation as to the appropriate resolution of this case."
Comey had a somewhat tense exchange with Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, who asked the director about whether classified information was discovered during the investigation.
"Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails either sent or received," Gowdy asked. "Is that true?"
"That is not true," Comey said. "There were a small number of portion markings on I think three of the documents."
Gowdy then sought further clarification, citing Clinton's previous statement that she did not email any classified material and that there was nothing classified on her server.
"There was classified material," Comey said.
Gowdy followed up by referencing Clinton's assurance that she used one device when she worked at the state department.
"She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as secretary of state," Comey said.
And whether Clinton told the truth when she said she turned over all work-related emails to the state department when asked to do so, Comey said that wasn't true either.
"No, we found work-related emails, thousands," he said. "That was not true."
Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, pressed Comey on whether Clinton lied.
She said numerous times there were no emails marked classified on her server, but the FBI found otherwise during its investigation.
"We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI," Comey said.
When asked by Chaffetz if Clinton lied to the American public, Comey said, "That's a question I'm not qualified to answer. I can speak about what she said to the FBI."
Clinton once told a Congressional committee under oath she never sent or received classified information on her private email, but Comey said he would need a referral from Congress in order to review that statement.
"You'll have one," Chaffetz said. "You'll have one in the next few hours."
Comey fielded questions from the committee about his Tuesday announcement that recommended the Department of Justice not pursue criminal charges against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Many Republicans staunchly disagreed with the director's decision.
Chaffetz asked Comey if Clinton would have trouble being granted a security clearance at the FBI because of her mishandling of classified information.
"I don't want to answer a hypothetical. The FBI has a robust process in which we adjudicate the suitability of people for employment in the bureau," Comey said.
When Chaffetz rephrased his question to omit Clinton's name, Comey seemed to give a different answer.
"It would be a very important consideration in a suitability determination," Comey said, referring to someone having a history of mishandling classified information.
"You're kind of making my point, director. The point being because I injected the word Hillary Clinton, you gave me a different answer," Chaffetz said.
Earlier, in his opening statement, Chaffetz told Comey that the FBI's decision revealed a "double standard" for powerful people. Had the "average Joe" done what she had done, he said, he would go to prison.
"If your name isn't Clinton, or you're not part of the powerful elite, then Lady Justice will act differently," Chaffetz said in his opening statement, adding that the FBI had set a "dangerous precedent" in letting Clinton off the hook without consequences.
While Republicans on the committee kept their foot on the gas as they questioned, and sometimes chastised, Comey, Democrats sided with the FBI's decision following its months-long investigation.
Among those Democrats was Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri, who called Republicans' actions "a partisan political witch hunt at taxpayer expense against secretary Clinton."
"This proceeding is just a sequel to that very bad at and the taxpayers will get the bill," Clay said. "It's a new low and it violates both house rules and the rules of this committee."
Later, Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said she's received countless phone calls from her constituents asking why the FBI came to its decision.
Lummis was particularly curious about Clinton's lawyers and whether they had the proper clearances to view classified information. Those lawyers deleted roughly 30,000 emails that were deemed personal.
"Do you have 100 percent confidence that none of the 30,000 emails destroyed by secretary Clinton's attorneys was marked as classified?" Lummis asked.
"I don't have 100 percent confidence," Comey replied. "I'm really confident some of them were classified. There were only three in the entire batch we found that bore any markings that indicated they were classified, so that's less likely but surely it's a reasonable assumption that some of the ones they deleted contain classified information."
Despite that assessment, Comey said numerous times he does not feel Clinton's actions were enough for a prosecutor to win a criminal case.
"I meant it when I said, in my experience which is three decades, no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case," Comey told Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat. "I know that frustrates people, but that's the way the law is."
Comey explained that three emails were discovered in Clinton's cache of around 30,000 that contained classified markings. They did not contain any classified language in the header, but rather they had portion markings within the text. Those were apparently noted with this marking: "(C)."
Comey said those classified messages were not properly marked, as they should have contained a header marking.
Republican Rep. Jimmy Duncan, a former judge, asked Comey about his use of the phrase "extreme carelessness" regarding Clinton's actions.
"That's a common-sense way of describing that sure looks careless to me, but the question of whether that amounts to gross negligence frankly is really not at the center of this," Comey said.
"When I look at the history of the prosecutions and see if then one case bought on a gross negligence theory, I know from 30 years there's no way anybody at the Department of Justice is bringing a case against John doe or Hillary Clinton for the second time in 100 years based on those facts."
Comey said his team of FBI agents reviewed "thousands and thousands" of documents during the course of the investigation. He called the agents involved "an all-star team," and said the agents who questioned Clinton were "real pros."
Comey's decision, and the way he delivered it, infuriated Republicans who felt that the FBI director in his unusually detailed and critical televised statement Tuesday had laid out a sufficient basis for prosecution.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said "there are a lot more questions that need to be answered" and, in a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, requested that Clinton be barred from receiving classified briefings for the rest of the campaign — a move that "certainly constitutes appropriate sanctions." Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump complained that the system was "rigged."
The hearing served as a means to energize a conservative base that might be disillusioned with Trump, as Republicans are working to hold onto their majority in Congress. But privately, some Republicans question the decision to pick a fight with Comey, a Republican from the Bush Justice Department with a reputation for independence.
On Tuesday, in a stinging assessment of her email practices as secretary of state, Comey rebuked Clinton and her aides for being "extremely careless" in their handling of classified information and contradicted many of the defenses and explanations she's put forward for months. But he also said there was no evidence anyone willfully or intentionally mishandled classified information and that "no reasonable prosecutor" would pursue such a case.
Comey, who served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, was appointed in 2013 to a 10-year term as FBI director by President Barack Obama.
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