Two days after Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey announced the Bureau was not recommending charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private server and e-mail account as Secretary of State, Comey answered
questions that were posed in a Congressional hearing by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz.
Chaffetz’s questions were among the most memorable to occur during the hours-long hearing, including queries about whether Clinton lied to Congress during lengthy 2015 Benghazi-related hearings and a particularly heated exchange at the tail end of Comey’s appearance:
In the hearings’ final moments, Mr. Comey and Mr. Chaffetz engaged in what may be the most contentious exchange yet.
Mr. Chaffetz pressed Mr. Comey on whether the former secretary of state had provided access to classified information to a number of people who did not hold security clearances, including her lawyers and the people who managed her email server.
“Did Hillary Clinton give non-cleared people access to classified information?” Mr. Chaffetz asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Comey responded.
Mr. Chaffetz repeatedly questioned Mr. Comey why there shouldn’t be consequences for Mrs. Clinton or her lawyers for that breach of security. But Mr. Comey insisted that it would be nearly impossible to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for giving her lawyers access to the emails for the purpose of evaluating them.
As the hearings got underway, Clinton PR outfit Correct the Record tweeted a link to what would become a widely retweeted image of Chaffetz’s business card — featuring a commercial GMail address, not an official government e-mail address:
— Correct The Record (@CorrectRecord) July 7, 2016
In Correct the Record’s initial tweet, the group stated Chaffetz “has” his GMail address on his business card. However, the tweet in question linked to a March 2015 article reporting that Chaffetz had acknowledged the card and stated that it was not officially issued by the government. In addition, Chaffetz (unlike Clinton) maintained a government e-mail account at the time the cards were current:
A business card obtained by ABC News shows that Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, lists his Gmail address on his official House card. Chaffetz [said] that his business card was not paid for with government funds and that Congress is not subject to the Federal Records Act. He said that he uses both a Gmail account and a government email account.
Irrespective of the article’s age, Chaffetz’s March 2015 business card became a popular Twitter share, with many users inferring the discovery was novel:
Who else uses private email? https://t.co/73VV58fFC7
— Josh Mankiewicz (@JoshMankiewicz) July 7, 2016
It wasn’t clear whether Correct the Record intended to muddy the waters around the date of the March 2015 article and photograph of Chaffetz’s business card; users re-tweeting the story (published more than a year prior to Comey’s July 2016 announcement and appearance in front of Congress) described the article’s content as “hypocritical”:
However, the photograph of Chaffetz’s card appeared as the Clinton e-mail controversy began in March 2015, well before the scandal escalated to becoming the lead story in daily news cycles.
Some readers appeared to conflate Chaffetz’s permissible use of personal e-mail address alongside an official government e-mail account with the focus of the Clinton hearing (which was her use of only a personal account and server to conduct government business):
It was true Chaffetz obtained and distributed cards with a GMail address at some point before March 2015, but there is no indication he continued the practice after a March 2015 ABC News article published a photograph of the card. The comparison of him with Hillary Clinton didn’t appear entirely apt, as Clinton’s controversial use of e-mail involved conducting official business via an account that was immune to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and not sufficiently secure for the transmission of classified information.
Chaffetz presumably ordered and distributed the business cards to constituents and others outside ofCongress, not those with whom he’d be corresponding on official governmental business matters. Although Correct the Record’s tweet contained information that was accurate at the time it was originally published in March 2015, the photograph it used was misleading as a counterpoint in the context of a July 2016 hearing.