James Comey’s May 2016 draft of the statement he gave just before the election in November shows that there are some major differences between what the former FBI director planned to say, and what he actually said.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft that seemingly excused Clinton of all charges, even before key witnesses were interviewed. Nevertheless, Comey apparently decided to make some further revisions to the statement.
When the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs first obtained the document, the Wisconsin Republican pointed out that the changes were made to make Clinton’s actions sound less criminal.
The Daily Wire reports:
A side by side comparison of what FBI Director James Comey said when he cleared Hillary Clinton without criminal charges — and what he planned to say, according to a draft of his statement — is absolutely shocking.
Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, obtained the the draft document in which Comey set out the bureau’s argument for clearing Clinton and her aides. In a spectacular letter on Thursday, the Wisconsin Republican went point by point through the draft, comparing the planned words with what Comey actually said.
In his letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Johnson said the original “could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified material.”
“The edited statement deleted the reference to gross negligence — a legal threshold for mishandling classified material — and instead replaced it with an exculpatory sentence.”
So what exactly did Comey change?
Below are some notes on the editing, as pointed out by Johnson.
“There is evidence to support a conclusion that Secretary Clinton used the private email server in a manner that was grossly negligent” became “although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton and her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
The editing clearly excuses Clinton of intent, while downplaying the criminality of the term “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
Second and third references to Clinton’s being “grossly negligent” were similarly removed.
The Associated Press reports:
A draft statement former FBI Director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the “tone and substance” of the remarks, a Republican senator said Thursday.
Some of the edits proposed to the May 2016 draft, obtained by The Associated Press, appear to soften the gravity of the bureau’s findings.
[…] The original version noted that the FBI had worked with partners in the intelligence community to determine whether the server had been compromised. While it was unclear what significance this had, it was omitted from Comey’s final text.
Though the FBI had not yet interviewed Clinton, then the Democratic candidate for president, at the time the statement was drafted, FBI officials had already determined that criminal charges were probably not warranted and had begun thinking about how to present that conclusion to the public.
Comey on May 2 circulated a proposed draft statement to other senior FBI officials laying out the basis for the eventual decision against recommending charges for Clinton and her aides.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he had obtained from the FBI a copy of Comey’s original draft with proposed line-by-line edits from other FBI officials. It’s not clear from the document which official suggested what changes, though many were incorporated into Comey’s July 5 announcement.
The full letter can be read here.
Comey’s edits of his draft didn’t seem to reflect any change of judgement in light of new interviews.
Instead, he only strengthened the case that although Clinton’s actions were criminal, she ought not be prosecuted based on his “judgement.”