Early Comey memo accused Clinton of gross negligence on emails

An early draft of former Director James Comey’s statement closing out the Hillary Clinton email case accused the former secretary of State of having been “grossly negligent” in handling classified information, newly reported memos to Congress show.

The tough language was changed to the much softer accusation that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information when Comey announced in July 2016 there would be no charges against her.

The change is significant, since federal law states that gross negligence in handling the nation’s intelligence can be punished criminally with prison time or fines.

Spokesmen for the FBI and Clinton did not immediately return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

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 this past weekend.

“There 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,” reads the statement, one of Comey’s earliest drafts.

Those sources said the draft statement was subsequently changed in red-line edits 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 “extremely careless.”

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the 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.

The documents turned over to Congress do not indicate who recommended the key wording changes, the sources said. The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to demand the FBI identify who made the changes and why, the sources said.

While Comey told Congress last year that he would never have prosecuted Clinton without proof she intended to violate a law, the editing of his statement suggests there might have been dissent within the FBI about that decision.

 

 

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