(CNSNews.com) - FBI Director James Comey told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lawyers did not have security clearance when they went through her emails to prepare for the investigation into her use of a private email server during her tenure at the State Department.
Comey also acknowledged that as many as 10 people without security clearance had access to the server.
“I appreciate your willingness to follow up on this. Did Secretary Clinton’s attorneys have the security clearances needed?” Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Comey.
“They did not,” Comey said.
“Does that concern you?” Chaffetz asked.
“Oh yeah, sure,” Comey replied.
Chaffetz asked if there was “any consequence to an attorney rifling through” Clinton’s emails without a security clearance.
“Well not necessarily criminal consequences,” Comey said, “but there’s a great deal of concern about an uncleared person not subject to the requirements we talked about in the read-in documents potentially having access.”
He said that’s why it’s”very, very important for us to recover everything we can back from attorneys.”
When asked what the consequence should be for Clinton to give her attorneys who don’t have a security clearance access to classified documents, Comey said, “I think that’s what happened in fact. Whether that was the direction is a question I can’t answer sitting here.”
“So you’re parsing that one a little bit. What’s the consequence? They don’t work for the government. We can’t fire them. So is there no criminal prosecution of those attorneys? Should they lose their bar license? What’s the consequence to that?” Chaffetz asked.
“If they acted with criminal intent or acted with some mal intent—” Comey replied.
“What you’re telling us is it doesn’t matter if you have a security clearance or not, because I may be innocent enough – hey, I’m just an attorney. I like the secretary. I’m trying to help Secretary Clinton. I’m not trying to give it to the Chinese or the Russians. I’m just trying to help her. So there’s no intent? It doesn’t matter if these people have security clearances?” Chaffetz asked.
“Of course it matters,” Comey replied. “That’s why I said—”
“There’s no consequence, director. There’s no consequence,” Chaffetz said.
“I don’t know what consequence you’d have in mind,” Comey said.
“Prosecute them,” Chaffetz said.
“An attorney for receiving from his client information that ends up being classified?” Comey asked.
“I asked you at the very beginning ... is there a reasonable expectation that Hillary Clinton would send and receive hourly, if not daily, classified information. That’s reasonable to think that the secretary of State would get classified information at every moment,” Chaffetz said.
“She’s not the head of Fish and Wildlife, so the idea that she would turn over her emails, her system, her server to what it sounds like up to 10 people without security clearances, and there’s no consequence. So why not do it again?” Chaffetz asked.
“That’s a question I don’t think you should put to me. I’m talking about my criminal investigation,” Comey responded.
“But how can that—there’s no intent there? Does she not understand that these people don’t have security clearances?” Chaffetz asked.
“Surely she understands at least some of them don’t have security clearances,” Comey said.
“So she understands they don’t have security clearances, and it’s reasonable to think she’s going to be getting classified information. Is that not intent to provide a non-cleared person access to classified information?” Chaffetz asked.
Comey said he didn’t think it was reasonable to assume that someone who is maintaining the server is reading emails.
“In fact, I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s a separate thing, which is when she’s engaging counsel to comply with the State Department’s request, are her lawyers then exposed to information that may be on there that’s classified?” Comey said.
“Did they see any classified information? Did Hillary Clinton’s attorneys without security clearances see classified information?” Chaffetz asked.
Comey said he didn’t know how to answer the question.
“It has to be yes, director. You came across 110, and they said they went through all of them,” Chaffetz said.
“They didn’t read them all. They just looked at headers,” Comey said.
“So their excuse is we saw the emails, but we didn’t read them?” Chaffetz asked.
Comey reiterated the statement he issued on Tuesday. He said the the attorneys “sorted the emails by using headers and search terms to try and find work-related emails. We read them all.”
“I know that you read them all. Do you think it’s reasonable or unreasonable to think that her attorneys under her direction did or did not read those emails?” Chaffetz asked. “Yes or no, were there or were there not classified emails that Hillary Clinton’s attorneys read?”
“I don’t know whether they read them at time,” Comey responded.
“Did Hillary Clinton give non-cleared people access to classified information?” Chaffetz asked.
“Yes,” Comey replied.
Chaffetz asked Comey what he thought Clinton’s intent was.
“I think then it was to get good legal representation and to make the production to the State Department. I think it’d be a very tall order in that circumstance - I don’t see the evidence there to make a case that she was acting with criminal intent in her engagement with her lawyers,” Comey said.
“I guess I read criminal intent as the idea that you allow somebody without security clearance access to classified information. Everybody knows that, director. Everybody knows that,” Chaffetz said.