Hillary Clinton gave people without a security clearance access to her private server that contained classified information, FBI director James Comey told a congressional panel on Thursday.
The FBI director said between two and 10 individuals without clearances had access to the server, including Clinton’s attorneys who sorted her emails before they were turned over to the State Department.
Comey was testifying before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee regarding his announcement on Tuesday that he would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton or her aides related to the mishandling of classified information on the private email server.
Although Comey said Clinton was "extremely careless" in handling classified materials, he said no "reasonable prosecutor" would proceed with the case because there was not evidence of criminal intent.
At one point during the hearing, the FBI director acknowledged that Clinton’s attorneys did not hold security clearances when the former secretary of state asked them to sort through her emails to determine which messages to turn over to the State Department and which ones to delete.
Comey also said he was unsure whether Clinton’s IT aide Bryan Pagliano had a security clearance, but believed between two and 10 individuals without clearances had access to Clinton’s server.
The revelation came during a tense exchange between Comey and Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah). The FBI director hedged when Chaffetz asked whether Clinton’s non-cleared attorneys ever read her classified emails.
"I don’t know the answer to that," said Comey. "I don’t know whether they read them at the time."
Chaffetz pressed the FBI director on the question of access.
"Did Hillary Clinton give non-cleared people access to classified information?" asked Chaffetz.
"Yes," said Comey, before adding that he did not see evidence of criminal intent.
"Her intent was to get good legal representation and to make the production to the State Department," added Comey. "I don’t see the evidence there to make the case that she was acting with criminal intent in her engagement with her lawyers."
Chaffetz appeared confounded by Comey’s response, arguing that the act of giving an unsecured person access to classified information was a crime on its own.
"I read criminal intent as the idea that you allow someone without a security clearance access to classified information," said Chaffetz. "Everybody knows that, director. Everybody knows that."
During the hearing, which lasted more than four hours, Republicans criticized the FBI’s decision not to recommend criminal charges in the case, while Democrats defended it as a fair resolution to the year-long investigation.
Although Comey is often described as a Republican, he said during the hearing that he is currently registered as an independent.
The FBI director declined to confirm whether the bureau is currently investigating Hillary Clinton’s actions on behalf of the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state. News reports had previously said the FBI launched a second public corruption probe related to the foundation, but this has not been publicly confirmed by the bureau.
"I’m not going to comment on the existence or non-existence of any other investigations," said Comey.