FBI Director James Comey on Thursday refuted assertions that email abuses by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outweighed security lapses by former CIA and U.S. Central Command head David Petraeus, calling the retired general's crimes "intentional misconduct."
Petraeus, a retired four-star general, was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine in spring 2015 for mishandling classified information, including sharing top secret documents with his mistress and personal biographer Paula Broadwell, with whom he also had a affair.
The revelations forced Petraeus' his resignation from the CIA in 2012 and sidelined his political ambitions, even though he only faced misdemeanor charges in the case.
But Republican critics of Clinton have often cited Petraeus' punishment as a baseline for what the Democratic presidential nominee should face for improper storage of sensitive State Department emails on her personal server.
Earlier this week, Comey sharply criticized Clinton's actions as irresponsible and careless, but said they did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.
On Thursday, in an appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he defended that decision and dismissed the Petraeus comparisons.
"The Petraeus case in my mind indicates the kind of cases that the Department of Justice is willing to prosecute," he said. "In that case, you had vast quantities of highly classified information, including highly sensitive information … not only shared with someone without authority to have it, but we found it in a search warrant hidden under the insulation in his attic.
"And then he lied to us about it during the investigation. So you have obstruction of justice, intentional misconduct and vast quantity of information."
Later in testimony, Comey clarified that classified documents were found in Petraeus' home, but in a filing cabinet, not hidden in the attic.
Justice Department of Justice officials have said they will follow the FBI’s recommendations on punishment for the Clinton email scandals. Comey repeated Thursday that he believes the Clinton case lacks "evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody engaged in conduct that violated a criminal statute."
At the hearing, committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he plans to send a new referral to the FBI to determine if Clinton lied under oath about the email scandal during her appearances before the committee.
Democrats immediately decried the move as a political stunt, and Comey said he is confident that Clinton did not lie to investigators during her interviews with his agency.
Chaffetz also promised a new hearing at a to-be-determined date on how the Petraeus case was handled, at the request of committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.