WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey defended his decision to urge the Justice Department to not press charges against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information on a private email server because it would not be fair to judge the former secretary of state on her celebrity status.
“Is there such a case of first impression and why was this not possibly one of those?” Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd asked Comey at the Thursday House Oversight hearing intended to examine the agency’s reasoning to not charge Clinton.
Comey responded, “There is such a thing. Which means the first time you do something—the reason this isn’t one of those is that’s just not fair.”
He explained, “That would be treating somebody differently because they’re of their celebrity status or because of some other factor doesn’t matter. We have to treat people — the bedrock of our system of justice is we treat people fairly.”
Celebrities and powerful government officials, however, are either indicted and/or convicted of federal crimes.
Up until now, twelve U.S. Senators throughout history, nine of which are Republican, have been indicted while in office.
In 2004, home and garden TV expert Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison and two years of supervised probation for insider trading. She was also forced to pay $220,000 in back taxes and penalties to the state of New York.
A court found actor Wesley Snipes guilty on three counts of failing to file a federal income tax return. He ended up owing the federal government $17 million in back taxes along with penalties as well as interest. When he could not pay part of what he owed during his trial to avoid prison in 2008, he was sentenced to 3 years starting in 2010. Other celebrities snagged by the government for tax evasion are Willie Nelson, Nicholas Cage, Marc Anthony, Annie Leibovitz, Darryl Strawberry, Boris Becker, Richard Hatch, and Heidi Fleiss.
“And that person who is handling the most sensitive information that this government can collect is not fair? It’s not fair to punish someone who did that?” Rep. Hurt asked Comey.
“Not on these facts. It would be fair if that person worked for me. It would be fair to have a robust disciplinary proceeding. It’s not fair to prosecute this person on these facts,” Comey insisted.