South Carolina’s Republican delegation in Washington, perhaps predictably, condemned the FBI’s decision Tuesday not to recommend charges against former presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her handling of a personal email system while serving as Secretary of State.
FBI Director James Comey called Clinton’s use of a personal server “extremely careless,” especially to handle sensitive, sometimes classified email content. But he told reporters Tuesday there is no evidence the then-Secretary of State “intentionally” or “willfully” mishandled confidential emails, which he said is the legal standard needed to bring charges. A final decision will be up to the Justice Department, but the Attorney General’s Office rarely goes against the FBI’s recommendations.
But the move by Comey did not prevent South Carolian Republican lawmakers from accusing the agency of showing preferential treatment to Clinton. US Sen. Tim Scott called for an independent prosecutor to take a new look at the case. “It has become completely clear that the rules are very different for the Clintons than they are for everyday Americans,” he said in a formal statement released by his office.
Third District US Rep. Jeff Duncan called the decision a “sad day in America.” “What makes America different than the Third World countries that I visit is our justice system, the fact that it’s supposed to be impartial,” he told Greenville affiliate WYRD. “But today we saw something different from the FBI director. And that’s alarming.”
Fifth District US Rep. Mick Mulvaney went even further. “The FBI decision today is outrageous,” he posted on his personal Twitter account. “If I had done what Mrs. Clinton had done, I would be in jail. Period. So would you.”
While nearly all of South Carolina’s GOP senators and representatives criticized Clinton, Second District US Rep. Joe Wilson and Sen. Lindsey Graham did not directly attack Comey or the FBI for their decision. Wilson called the former Secretary of State’s actions “remarkably reckless” and that it “displayed a lack of judgment.” Graham said the FBI decision “won’t change the fact that Secretary Clinton flouted oversight and transparency norms by using a private email server. The FBI was rightfully harsh in their assessment of her actions.”
Notably, one congressman not commenting is the man whose select investigative committee helped reveal Clinton’s email arrangement in the first place. A spokeswoman for Fourth District US Rep. Trey Gowdy said Gowdy does not plan to comment on the issue since it was outside his committee’s focus.
South Carolina’s Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison came to Clinton’s defense, arguing the country was still better off with her in the White House than likely Republican nominee Donald Trump. “Since this campaign began, Secretary Clinton has consistently said that she made a mistake in handling her email during her tenure as Secretary of State,” Harrison wrote. “She has also consistently said that her mistake was not criminal misconduct that would warrant prosecution, and that it was in line with the email practices of previous Republican secretaries of State. Today, after an exhaustive FBI investigation, it is clear that the Secretary was right on all these counts.”