What You Need to Know From This Morning's Stand-Off Between the GOP and FBI Director James Comey

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FBI Director James Comey appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning to discuss his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the stakes of the confrontation quickly became clear: Republican lawmakers would attempt to make him call Hillary Clinton a liar, and Comey would try to dodge that specific language. They weren’t going to get Comedy to budge on his recommendation that Clinton should not be charged, but his statement earlier this week that she had displayed “extreme carelessness” gave them ground to pursue a smaller, ethics-based concession.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) led the Republican by asking Comey directly whether Clinton had lied in various statements about her email use. Comey responded that she hadn’t lied to the FBI, and refused to comment on whether she had lied in public statements. “That’s a question I’m not qualified to answer,” Comey said, and continued to stay within the bounds of Clinton’s comments to the FBI.

(See that clip here.)

Trey Gowdy made the point more effectively, bringing up various statements Clinton had made about her emails and then asking Comey to verify the truth of what she said, based on his investigation. It led to exchanges like these:

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said she never sent or received any classified information over her private email. Was that true?

Comey: Our investigation found that there was classified information sent—

Gowdy: So it was not true.

Comey: That’s what I said.

Gowdy: Well, I’m looking for a little shorter answer so you and I aren’t here so long. Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails sent or received.

Comey: That’s not true, there were a small number of portion markings on three of the documents.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email, there is no classified material, was that true?

Comey: There was classified material emailed.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said she used just one device. Was that true?

Comey: She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as Secretary of State.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said all work-related emails were returned to the State Department. Was that true?

Comey: No, we found work-related emails, thousands, that were not returned.

(See that clip here.)

Nevertheless, Comey stuck to his original statement, which is that there was no proof that Clinton intended to violate any statutes, and that, since only one case of gross negligence has been brought in 100 years without corresponding intent in the realm of intelligence information, it wasn’t reasonable to prosecute Clinton on those grounds either.

The Republicans, of course, are not accepting his logic, and are already taking action to punish Clinton in any way possible. Per Politico:

Since Comey’s stunning news conference, Republican lawmakers have fought back with letters to the administration, Thursday’s hastily-called hearing and legislation that would yank Clinton’s security clearance…

Committee chairmen from both ends of the Capitol are investigating. And Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who called for Clinton’s clearance to be revoked almost immediately after Comey’s announcement, made his request formal on Thursday in a letter to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

As I wrote yesterday, the lack of impending prosecution matters very little—Republicans intend to keep the scandal alive as long as possible, with the end goal of costing Clinton the presidency.