According to a new report from The Hill, early drafts of former FBI Director James Comey's statement on Hillary Clinton's email case accused the former Secretary of State of "gross negligence" in her handling of classified information as opposed to the "extremely careless" phrase that made its way into the final statement.
As The Hill further points out, the change in language is significant since federal law states that "gross negligence" in handling the nation’s intelligence can be punished criminally with prison time or fines whereas "extreme carelessness" has no such legal definition and/or ramifications.
An early draft of former FBI 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, new 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 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.
“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.”
Of course, Comey's final statement, while critical of Hillary's email usage, alleged that no prosecutor would pursue charges against actions which he described only as "extremely careless."
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."
“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about the matters should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
Meanwhile, Section 793 of federal law states that "gross negligence" with respect to the handling of national defense documents is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison...so you can see why that might present a problem for Hillary.
“Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
Unfortunately, The Hill's sources couldn't confirm the most important detail behind this bombshell new revelation, namely who made the call to the change the language...
The sources, who spoke only 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.
...that said, we're going to go out on a limb and question whether it just might have had something to do with that infamous meeting between Bill Clinton and then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey's boss, that happened just 6 days before Comey made his statement?
Nah, they probably really did just discuss their grandkids...