While Rep. Trey Gowdy was grilling FBI Director James Comey in a hearing Thursday about his finding that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary Clinton, his fellow South Carolina Republican, Sen. Tim Scott, was introducing legislation to revoke the former secretary of state’s security clearance.
“The fact of the matter is that according to Comey’s comments, in the past people who’ve done similar things, but not even to this magnitude, have seen their clearance suspended or revoked temporarily,” Scott told McClatchy, calling the legislation a “realistic response” to a situation that should have consequences.
The TRUST Act introduced by Scott, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, would revoke Clinton’s security clearance as well as those of her State Department staffers who “exhibited extreme carelessness in their handling of classified information” when she served as secretary of state.
In announcing his recommendation that no charges be filed against Clinton stemming from her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, Comey called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Declaring that the matter was far from closed, Republicans had called on Comey to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday.
Gowdy, a former South Carolina federal prosecutor, peppered Comey with a series of courtroom-style questions in the manner that has made him famous in conservative circles.
Did the FBI agree with Clinton’s claims that she’d never sent any classified material over email? Gowdy asked.
“No, there was classified material emailed,” Comey replied.
Was it true, as Clinton claimed, that she used only one device?.
“She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as secretary of state,” Comey answered.
And what about Clinton’s statement that she and her lawyers had turned over all her work-related emails to the State Department?
“No, we found work-related emails, thousands that were not returned,” Comey said.
Gowdy then went on to argue that this pattern of false statements by Clinton seem to indicate an intent to hide criminal conduct, which should open her case to prosecution. Comey, also a fomer prosecutor, said he understood the theory.
Comey defended his investigation into Clinton’s email server as “apolitical,” calling it “competent, honest and independent.”
It was the probe by Gowdy, as chairman of the Benghazi Committee, that accidentally uncovered Clinton’s private email server during his investigation of the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. He has struggled for two years to defend the impartiality of his Benghazi inquiry, which Democrats have criticized as a political witch hunt to damage Clinton.
Another South Carolina Republican on the committee, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, argued that if Clinton tried to set up a personal email server as president, the FBI wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
“I don’t think you can take away the president’s top security clearance, and I’m pretty sure you can’t fire the president, because we’ve tried,” he said.
Asked about Comey’s hearing as he walked out of Donald Trump’s meeting with Republican senators on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning, Scott broke into a smile.
“I know that my good friend Trey Gowdy and others have had a good time today,” he said.
Scott sent a one-word tweet during the Trump meeting after his friend’s interrogation – “Gowdy.”
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., also attended the committee hearing.
“There was a lot of great questioning, but I was once again particularly impressed by my colleague from South Carolina, Trey Gowdy,” he posted on Facebook along with a video of Gowdy interrogating Comey, encouraging his Facebook followers to watch it.