So yesterday was the much anticipated U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing with FBI Director James Comey in the hot seat. The purpose of the hearing was to give some elucidation into why the Director decided not to recommend prosecution of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for gross negligence in the handling of classified material over a personal e-mail server which lacked any semblance of security in contravention of State Department and federal regulations.
The very composed and previously much respected head of the FBI raised his right hand, swore on oath to the truth and proceeded to explain how Hillary Clinton did not have the required mens rea or intent to break the law and therefore no crime was committed. This despite the fact that the applicable statute under which Madam Secretary was investigated (18 U.S.C. section 793(f)) requires the element of gross negligence not intent. Director Comey had an explanation for this mysterious addition of a criminal element unlooked for by Congress when they enacted the law. It made more sense to him to ignore the law since it was enacted back in 1917 and not used very often.
Most of the members of the Committee sat there gob smacked as the Director of the FBI explained that it was okay to ignore laws you don’t think are utilized enough. When the shock wore off the questions began, starting with Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and then alternating between republican and democrat members of the committee stepping up to the mound and pitching outraged questions at the rather stoic Mr. Comey. Or rather the republicans were outraged.
Here are some examples of questions from the republicans on the committee. Did Hillary Clinton lie? In fact did she lie to Congress? Did the former Secretary of State keep classified material on an unprotected server and allow people with no security clearance to have access to that server? Would anyone whose name was not Hillary Clinton be given any security clearance after similar actions ever again?
The democrats on the committee did not appear as shocked as their conservative counterparts. As a matter of course they barely appeared interested in the topic of Hillary Clinton’s subterfuge at all. The statements from the left side of the aisle, and indeed they were more statements of fact than questions, centered around apologizing to Comey for being there, wondering whether racism exists in the United States and pondering if Donald Trump is anti-Semitic. All that was missing was some erstwhile democratic congressman asking Director Comey if he knew whatever happened to missing hijacker D.B. Cooper who disappeared back in 1971.
And then there was Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA). Congressman Lynch made the people of Massachusetts proud today. The former union boss, man of the people, the guy who keeps a bicycle in his trunk so he can commute to his home in South Boston from whatever parking spot he was lucky enough to find that night went off the rails today in the oversight hearing. Instead of asking if Hillary Clinton had in any way shape or form injured our country through her reckless disregard for security guidelines, Mr. Lynch decided to read form the biography of Secretary Colin Powell. First he waved it in the air in front of Director Comey demanding if he had ever read it. Not unsurprisingly the Director had not. So the Congressman decided to read it out loud. The relevant passages being Colin Powell’s references to the fact he had a lap top and an AOL account 20 years ago when e-mail was in its infancy and no one had figured out how to use it yet. The Congressman from Massachusetts wanted to know if Secretary Powell had ever had to answer for his e-mail use in front of Congress and why no one was upset that a Secretary of State who held the title over a decade before Hillary Clinton was not being held to the same standard.
Steve Lynch seemed to be of the opinion that since there were no guidelines in place in 2001 then Hillary Clinton should not be held accountable for not following the since codified regulations in 2012. By that logic, since there were no speed limits in 1908, the year the Model T came out, we should not be liable for speeding tickets now. I hope the voters in the Massachusetts 8th District were watching. This was their duly elected representative and their tax dollars at work. Come to think of it I hope the state police who hand out speeding tickets on the turnpike like chick-lets were watching too….
The democratic members of the committee today gave an amazingly partisan demonstration of the reason why both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have done so well with their populist movements. Their contempt for our intelligence is palpable. The only solution, since we can’t depend on the Justice Department apparently, is at the ballot box for both the presidential and congressional elections. Remember this display next November. Our future – and theirs – is in your chad punching hands.