A South Carolina congressman who cut his teeth as a criminal prosecutor grilled FBI Director James Comey on Thursday in an open hearing, pushing him to concede that many of Hillary Clinton's public statements about her classified email scandal – and one statement she made to Congress – were false.
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs a separate Capitol Hill inquest into the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks, asked Comey a series of fact-check questions that Donald Trump's presidential campaign quickly seized on, sending a video clip of the exchange to its largest email list.
Gowdy asked whether FBI investigators agreed with Clinton's claim to Congress in October 2015 that she never sent or received any items bearing classified markings.
'That is not true,' Comey declared. 'There were a small number of portion markings on, I think, three of the documents.'
Clinton's similar claims that she never emailed 'any classified material to anyone on my email' and 'there is no classified material' also didn't strike Comey as accurate.
'No, there was classified material emailed,' he said.
'In the interest of time – because I have a plane to catch tomorrow afternoon – I'm not going to go through any more of the false statements,' Gowdy snarked. 'But I am going to ask you put on your old [prosecutor's] hat.'
'False exculpatory statements, they are used for what?' he asked.
Comey responded: 'Either for the substantive prosecution or for evidence of intent in a criminal prosecution.'
'Exactly,' Gowdy said. 'Intent and consciousness of guilt, right? Is that right? Consciousness of guilt and intent.'
'In your old job you would prove intent as you just referenced by showing the jury evidence of a complex scheme that was designed for the very purpose of concealing the public record, and you would be arguing in addition to concealment the destruction that you and I just talked about, or certainly the failure to preserve [documents].'
'You would also be arguing the pervasiveness of the scheme,' Gowdy offered, 'when it started, when it ended and [the] number of emails, whether they were originally classified or up-classified. You would argue all of that under the heading of "intent." You would also probably under "common scheme or plan" argue the burn-bags of daily calendar entries, or the missing daily calendar entries, as a common scheme or plan to conceal.'
'Two days ago, director, you said a reasonable person in her should have known a private email is no place to send and receive classified information. You're right. 'An average person does know not to do that,' Gowdy said.