FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Thursday, just two days after announcing the bureau’s findings in their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” email practices during her tenure as Secretary of State.
At the start of the hearing, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) questioned Comey on whether an individual with the same information handling practices would be hired by the FBI.
“The FBI does background checks,” Chaffetz said. “If Hillary Clinton applied for the job at the FBI, would the FBI give Hillary Clinton a security clearance?”
Comey responded by declining to answer a hypothetical question, instead saying:
“The FBI has a robust process in which we adjudicate the suitability of people for employment in the bureau.”
But Chaffetz pressed further, asking Comey whether security clearances would be granted to individuals who were “extremely careless” with handling classified information. The FBI Director responded:
“It would be a very important consideration in a suitability of determination.”
Chaffetz then suggested that Comey’s decision to not give a definitive answer stemmed from political motivations, saying:
“You’re kinda making my point, Director. The point being, because I injected the word Hillary Clinton, you gave me a different answer.”
“Personally I think that just sounds like a bit of a political answer because I can’t imagine that the FBI would grant a security clearance to somebody with that fact pattern,” Chaffetz added.
Again in response, Comey declined to expand on the nature of granting security clearances for an individual with the same record as Clinton.
“I’ll just say what I said before. Again, it’s very hard to answer a hypothetical — I’ll repeat it. It would be a very important consideration in a suitability determination.”
Comey pledged to stay in the hearing as long as humanly possible, due to what he described as his full commitment to transparency.
But for Chaffetz’s hypothetical scenario, the FBI Director could not provide a concrete answer before the committee.