FBI Director James Comey testifies on decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton

Last Updated Jul 7, 2016 3:12 PM EDT

2:40 p.m. After nearly five hours of questioning, the House Oversight Committee wraps up its session with FBI Director James Comey.

2:30 p.m. Comey tells Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, that there is "no doubt" that some of Clinton's lawyers who sifted through her emails did not have security clearance.

"Did Hillary Clinton give non-cleared people access to classified information?" Chaffetz asked.

"Yes," Comey said, though he noted that there was no evidence of criminal intent by Clinton in allowing her lawyers to sort through the emails.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted a reply to the exchange, maintaining that the lawyers handling the emails had "Top-Secret level clearance."

Clinton attorney David Kendall wrote in a letter to Congress back in August that he and his partner Katherine Turner had obtained top secret clearance from the State Department.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, responded to Kendall last year, saying that even a top secret clearance did not have the level of authority needed to handle the sensitive information in the emails.

Comey broke down how many emails contained classified information earlier this week.

"From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received," Comey said at his press conference Tuesday. "Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent."

1:14 p.m. The FBI director told the House Oversight Committee that he doesn't think this hearing has been a Republican witch-hunt.

"I understand people's questions and interest," Comey said.

1:04 p.m. Comey said he's "not sure" Clinton's server was hacked.

He also acknowledged that a Gmail email account, obtainable by anyone, could be more secure than Clinton's home-brewed server was.

12:31 p.m. Replying to a question from Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, Comey said the FBI questioned Romanian hacker Guccifer, who claimed to have accessed Clinton's private email server.

Comey said Guccifer "did not" hack into Clinton's systems, and that the hacker "admitted that was a lie."

12:26 p.m. Comey gave a testy response over insinuations that he coordinated with Democrats on his recommendations and the timing of the FBI press conference.

"I did not coordinate that with anyone," he insisted. "I say that under oath, I stand by that."

12:19 p.m. In another tangential exchange, Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, questions whether Comey has seen the popular Broadway musical, Hamilton.

"Have you seen the Broadway production Hamilton?" Mica asked.

Comey replied: "Not yet. I'm hoping to."

12:12 p.m. Pushing back on Republican characterizations of his recommendation adhering to a "double standard" when it comes to Hillary Clinton, FBI Director James Comey said it would instead be a "double standard" if the former secretary of state was prosecuted.

"You know what would be a double standard? If she was prosecuted for gross negligence," Comey noted. "She was negligent. That I can establish."

11:45 a.m. Comey told the House Oversight Committee that the decision not to recommend an indictment was unanimous among the investigative team.

The FBI chief said the agency had no "direct evidence" that Clinton's server was compromised by hostile foreign powers.

11:40 a.m. FBI Director Comey, previously a registered Republican "for most of my adult life," told a House Oversight Committee member that he is no longer a registered Republican voter.

Comey also clarified that none of the Clinton documents had headers stating the documents were classified.

11:24 a.m. Comey testifies that three documents on Clinton's server were marked with a "(C)" -- a "confidential" classification marking.

The FBI director said he was unsure whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was "sophisticated" enough to know that the marking meant "confidential."

"I think it's possible she didn't understand what a 'C' meant when she saw it in the body of an email like that," he told the committee.

Comey said the FBI will give the House Oversight Committee whatever it can provide "under our law" from the Clinton investigation.

Clinton's campaign later sent a press release highlighting Comey's statements about the three emails marked classified.

11:10 a.m. Comey takes tangental queries about white supremacists and neo-Nazi messages on Twitter. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, posed the questions.

11:00 a.m. Comey notes that what was classified on Hillary Clinton's emails was the topics of discussion -- not any top secret documents.

10:45 a.m. Asked by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, whether he timed his announcement of the FBI's recommendation to help Clinton during her first day of campaigning with President Obama, Comey said he did not.

It was "entirely my own," Comey replied, and his team "didn't coordinate" with Clinton.

10:30 a.m. Chaffetz questions Comey on whether Hillary Clinton lied under oath about her private email server use.

"We have no basis to conclude that she lied to the FBI," Comey responded.

When asked if Clinton broke the law, Comey said that his judgment was that there was not enough evidence to "establish beyond a reasonable doubt" that Clinton did so. But Comey also reiterated that he would go as far as to fire someone in the FBI's employ who handled classified information the way the Clinton team did.

Responding to a rapid-fire series of questions, Comey testified that several Clinton statements on her email server use -- including her use of just one device to email -- were untrue.

Chaffetz then urged another investigation into Clinton's "lies."

"Do you need a referral from Congress to investigate her statements under oath?" Chaffetz asked.

"Sure do," Comey responded.

"You'll have one, " Chaffetz said, with a laugh. "You'll have one in the next few hours."

When Rep. Cummings asked if there were parallels or differences with the Gen. Petraeus case (where Petraeus was charged with a misdemeanor), Comey said the ex-CIA head had shown "clearly intentional conduct" and admitted to lying to the FBI. He noted that Petraeus had also stored classified information in the insulation of his attic, an unsecured location. (Comey later corrected himself on this detail, saying that the FBI found notebooks in Petraeus' desk, rather than the attic.)

10:20 a.m. FBI Director James Comey gives his opening statement, defending his department's investigation as "competent" and "honest."

It was conducted "in an apolitical and professional way -- including our recommendation," Comey said. The investigation was done, he said, "by people who didn't give a hoot about politics."

He explained that his recommendation to the DOJ not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was based on two questions used in every case regarding handling classified information: "What did the person do? And when they did that thing, what were they thinking?"

Comey noted that in order to prosecute a person for mishandling classified information, prosecutors would be required to prove willfulness (a very high bar) or "gross negligence".

While "I see evidence of great carelessness," Comey said, "no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case" on those grounds.

10:15 a.m. Ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, thanked FBI Director Comey for his appearance before the House Oversight Committee, noting that Comey had a "thankless task" before him in investigating Clinton's private email server use.

"No matter what recommendation you made, you were sure to be criticized," Cummings said. "In a sense, Mr. Director, you are on trial."

The Democratic congressman praised the "extremely thorough" job the FBI did in their investigation while slamming Republicans for politicizing the final recommendation.

"Amazingly, amazingly, some Republicans who were praising you just days ago for your independence, for your integrity, and your honesty, instantly turned against you, because your recommendation conflicted with the predetermined outcome they wanted," Cummings said. "In their eyes, you had one job. And one job only: to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But you refused to do so. So now you are being summoned here to answer for your alleged transgressions."

10:05 a.m. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, begins the hearing.

Chaffetz criticized the conclusions reached by Comey in his opening statement, saying some are "mystified and confused" about the recommendation not to prosecute the Democratic presumptive nominee.

The Utah congressman claimed there was a "legitimate concern that there is a double standard" when it comes to dealing with Clinton.

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FBI Director James Comey (L) shakes hands with Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-CA) (R) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) (C) before testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington U.S. July 7, 2016.

REUTERS

"There's no consequence for these types of activities in dealing with a careless way with classified information," Chaffetz said, addressing Comey. "It seems to a lot of us that the average Joe, the average American -- if they had done what you laid out in your statement, that they'd be in handcuffs."

He added that the FBI recommendation set a "dangerous" precedent when it comes to handling classified information.

9:45 a.m. FBI Director James Comey will testify in front of the House Oversight Committee Thursday on his recommendation to the Justice Department not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over the use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m., where Comey will be joined by the State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick, and the inspector general for the intelligence community, Charles McCullough III.

Earlier this week, Comey said that "no charges are appropriate in this case," giving the reason that "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." The FBI director did note, however, that Clinton and her staff were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."

The House committee is likely to hammer Comey on whether any security breaches occurred during Clinton's use of the server, CBS News' Paula Reid reports.