Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a message to his workforce Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey further defended his decision not to press charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
“I hope you see clearly what I see, that this investigation was done honestly, independently, and competently,” Comey said in a video message to FBI personnel, according to one government employee who recounted the message to ABC News. “For investigators and their supervisors, all the way up to me, the decision was not only the right one, it actually wasn’t that hard a decision given the facts and the law.”
In fact, Comey said, “What I don’t have patience for is people suggesting that the FBI did it in some way that was anything other than apolitical and independent, because that’s just not true and anybody who knows the FBI should know better.”
Comey has spent recent weeks defending his decision before lawmakers, reporters and the public in general.
Earlier this month, he told a House panel that the question of whether to bring charges against Clinton was “not a cliffhanger,” reiterating his belief that “no reasonable prosecutor” would have brought an indictment in the case.
In trying to explain his decision to lawmakers, Comey told a House panel that two things matter in such a criminal probe: “What did the person do ... and when they did it -- did they know they were doing something that was unlawful?”
“When I look at the facts we gathered here ... I see evidence of great carelessness, but I do not see evidence sufficient to establish that Secretary Clinton or those with whom she was corresponding both talked about classified information on email and knew when they did it that they were doing something that was against the law,” Comey said earlier this month. “No reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.”
Comey has called Clinton and her aides “extremely careless” for their handling of classified information, and he has acknowledged that U.S. law makes it a crime to exhibit even “gross negligence” in dealing with such sensitive material. But testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Comey said the Justice Department has used the law only once in the statute's 99-year existence -- in a case involving espionage -- and there has long been “grave concerns” among prosecutors that using the law could violate the “American tradition” of only jailing people who knew they were engaging in illegal activity.
“No reasonable prosecutor would bring the second case in 100 years focused on ‘gross negligence,’” Comey told the committee on July 7. “That’s just the way it is. ... Nobody would. Nobody did.”
Nevertheless, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he is "mystified" and "confused" by Comey’s decision, insisting “the average Joe" believes that if they had “sloppily” handled classified information like Clinton did, "they'd be in handcuffs."
According to Chaffetz, the message being sent is: "If your name isn’t Clinton or you aren’t part of the powerful elite, that Lady Justice will act differently."
Comey dismissed such criticism, saying the decision was made by career agents and high-level prosecutors who “who didn’t give a hoot about politics, but who cared about what are the facts, what is the law and how have similar people -- all people -- been treated in the past.”
In his message to FBI employees Tuesday, Comey called these “difficult circumstances at difficult times.” But he said the FBI is “looking pretty darn good” thanks to the agency’s work overall.
iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Firefighters are still working to control the fast-moving wildfire that has scorched 37,473 acres near Los Angeles since last Friday, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
More than 3,000 firefighters have been deployed to halt the wildfire's path, according to the department. About 25 percent of the fire has been contained.
Some evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday night, fire officials announced, with the exception of those living in areas still deemed too dangerous.
About 10,000 homes were evacuated because of the massive blaze near Santa Clarita.
As of Monday, one death has been reported and 18 structures have been destroyed, officials said.
The U.S. Forest Service has asked residents not to fly drones over the fire.
"Recent drone activity has occurred over the fire in the Bear Divide Area. When drones interfere with firefighting efforts, a wildfire has the potential to grow larger and cause more damage. On the Sand Fire, an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect and any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges," according to a statement on the agency's site.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An odor comparable "to the stench of rotting flesh" will soon be released at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in New York City and the United States Botanical Garden (USBG) in Washington, D.C., sometime this week, when corpse flowers at both locations are expected to fully bloom.
Despite the putrid stench, a huge crowd of people will likely flock to the gardens to witness the corpse flowers open.
Part of the mystery that shrouds the giant plants, scientifically known as Amorphophallus titanums, are their unpredictable bloom cycles -- which only happen every several years to decades. And when the flower actually does bloom, it only stays open for two to three days.
The corpse flower is also considered a "horticultural jewel" because it is one of the largest flowers in the world.
When the USBG put its corpse flower on display last Friday, it said the plant was around 3.5 feet tall.
On Tuesday, the flower was measured to be nearly 6 feet tall, USBG public information Devin Dotson told ABC News.
In its natural habitat, the corpse flower can grow up to 12 feet tall.
The USBG last displayed a corpse flower bloom in 2013. More than 130,000 visitors came to see the plant in person and more than 650,000 viewers accessed the live webstream.
The NYBG, on the other hand, last displayed a corpse flower bloom nearly 80 years ago in 1937. The NYBG added that the corpse flower's bloom is also particularly special this year as the garden is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.
The USBG has forecast that its corpse flower will likely enter peak bloom sometime between this Thursday and Saturday, while the NYBG has forecast that flower could begin peak bloom sometime today or tomorrow.
Live streams of both the plants in D.C. and New York City are available below.
iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Men who have dedicated their lives to fighting fires are among those who lost their homes in a massive Los Angeles-area wildfire that has burned more than 33,000 acres, according to authorities.
Firefighters have been working to battle the Sand Fire near Santa Clarita for days. The blaze is at 10 percent containment, officials said Monday.
Several thousand homes threatened by the Sand Fire were saved by firefighters, but the blaze has destroyed about 18 structures -- including five homes belonging to fire personnel and forest employees, authorities said.
Firefighters Ramon Chavez and James Robledo and their families are among them.
"We just want to make sure our kids are fine and they're impacted as little as possible," Chavez told ABC News.
His wife, Bonnie Chavez, was in San Diego when the family evacuated, but Ramon Chavez called her to see what she wanted him to take -- she requested her wedding dress. "For maybe, one day, my daughters," she said.
The Chavez family also lost a home to fire in 2009.
Ramon Chavez said they're not only thankful for the support they're receiving, but "we also want to provide that support."
"Knowing how important the support from family and friends is, that's something that we know goes a long way with the healing process and the rebuilding process," he said.
While they're living in a hotel with nowhere to return home to, Tanya Robledo said their children are strong and realize the families are safe, which is more important than material things.
"We're rebuilding together as a family. It's not just one unit or two, it's all of us together," she said.
"With what we lost, we came together as a family," James Robledo said. "Anytime somebody loses something, we try to pull together."
"It's devastating," he added. "Material things we can replace. But family you can't."
Firefighter Sergio Toscano, a Marine veteran who works with the U.S. Forest Service, also lost his home in the Sand Fire, according to ABC's Los Angeles station KABC. He's since been assigned to help battle the blaze.
Their families are part of a youcaring.com fundraising page to help rebuild.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Protests against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton continued for a second straight day Monday through scorching temperatures on the streets of Philadelphia, as an atmosphere of division cast a shadow over the Democratic National Convention's opening night.
The protests stemmed from a number of different groups, including marijuana legalization activists, immigration rights activists, socialists, Green Party supporters, and Black Lives Matter activists, who were unified in their opposition to Clinton and the DNC.
The demonstrations, which have generally been larger than those that took place in Cleveland during the RNC, have followed in the wake of what has been a tumultuous week for Democrats highlighted by an email leak which appeared to show efforts by the party to impede the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the party.
The protests have resulted in multiple people being detained, police said. No one has been arrested.
Some marchers carried banners that read "Hillary for Prison," and signs with pictures of Trump and Clinton that read "Either Way, Wall Street Wins." A group of protesters carried a giant float shaped like a joint, urging government to "end the racist drug war."
Demonstrators targeted delegates walking on the other side of a dividing line to enter the Wells Fargo arena, and one observer described the mood as "furious."
In interviews, protesters expressed anger and frustration about the management of the Democratic Party, and about the nomination of Clinton.
"A lot of people feel like their banging their heads against a wall," a protester wearing a Bernie sticker on his shirt told ABC News in reference to attempts to reform the Democratic Party. "Money corrupts politics."
"I understand the sentiment never Trump, but there are a lot of people here who are never Hillary," he added.
He called the alleged efforts of the DNC to stop Sanders "collusion" and "sad to see."
One woman told ABC News she would be voting for Sanders "regardless" of whether his name was on the ballot.
A man in a Bernie shirt told ABC News that he would be voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
"That's too bad," he said, regarding Sanders' endorsement of Clinton.
The atmosphere of division was felt both inside and outside the Wells Fargo arena. During the invocation, hosted by interim chair Marcia Fudge, boos echoed through the hall, and chants of "Bernie" followed the mention of Clinton's name.
WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- Dallas police said Monday they were still investigating the death of a 2-year-old boy who had been left in a hot car as his family attended church this weekend.
According to police, officers responded to a call from Dallas Fire-Rescue on Sunday around 4:20 p.m. regarding the toddler, who had been found inside of a vehicle at 11000 Shiloh Rd.
"The child was transported to a local hospital where the child was pronounced deceased," police spokesman Carlos Almeida said.
Almeida said it was "an active investigation" and no further details were available.
According to KidsAndCars.org, Boi Lei Sang, 2, is the fifth child to die in a hot car in Texas this year. Across the U.S., 21 children have died of heatstroke in a vehicle so far this year, compared to 11 children by this time in 2015.
It is not known how long the boy had been in the car.
Reng Om was attending services at Dallas Matu Christian Church with other families when, he said, the father entered the church carrying the unresponsive little boy.
Om told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV that the family attended the church.
He said that his understanding was that when the father of five didn't see the child with his four siblings in a classroom, he went looking for him. The boy was found around 3 p.m. in the family's 2006 Honda Pilot, Om told WFAA-TV.
"The parent was very, you know, just very upset," Om said. "I'm really upset for him, the family."
According to the local weather report on WFAA-TV, temperatures in the area reached 100 degrees Sunday.
iStock/Thinkstock(FORT MYERS, Fla.) -- Two teenagers were identified as the two victims killed in a shooting outside a Florida club early Monday morning.
The teens were 14-year-old Sean Archilles and 18-year-old Ste’fan Strawder, the Fort Myers Police said.
The shooting was reported in the parking lot at Club Blu in Fort Myers, Florida, at about 12:30 a.m. Monday, the Fort Myers Police said, after an event at the club geared toward teenagers.
At least 14 to 16 others were hurt, police said. Injuries ranged from minor to life-threatening, police said.
Police have not determined a motive but said this is not an act of terror.
A spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Hospital said patients' ages ranged from 12 to 27.
"We are deeply sorry for all involved," Club Blu said in a statement. "We tried to give the teens WHAT WE THOUGHT WAS A SAFE PLACE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME. Ages 12-17. There was armed security as well as full security,inside and out. As the club was closing and parents were picking their children up.....that's when all this took place."
"It was not kids at the party that did this despicable act," the club said.
Three people were detained in connection with the shooting.
ABCNews.com(KEY WEST, Fla.) -- Move over “The Old Man and the Sea” -- this was many old men in Key West, all vying to be the winner of the 36th annual Ernest "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest.
The reigning champ this year is actually named Dave Hemingway, of Macon, North Carolina, although he claims he is not related to the famous author.
"I think it's about time that Hemingway won a Hemingway look-alike contest," he said after winning the competition adorned in a wool turtleneck sweater, much like the famed author’s.
Hemingway beat out 139 other entrants on his seventh attempt for the title.
"I do feel like Ernest because I'm in the same town that he lived in for so many years," the bearded man explained. "I like to fish, I like to drink a little bit, I like women, and I just like having a good fun time."
One of the other competitors also included famous southern chef Paula Deen’s husband, Michael Groover of Savannah, Georgia. Groover finished within the top five for the second year in a row.
The contest took place at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, a local watering hole the author often frequented while he lived there in the 1930s.
ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- Thousands of police and federal agents who were in Cleveland last week for the Republican National Convention are now in Philadelphia for another week of long days and heightened vigilance.
The recent attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as the terrorist attack in Nice, France, are “certainly a reminder you’ve always got to be ready for any scenario,” according to Secret Service Director James Clancy.
“We should have a plan already in place for whatever we may be confronted with,” Clancy told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas in an exclusive interview ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
For weeks, top U.S. officials have been warning that radical activists drawn to the political conventions could mar otherwise peaceful demonstrations with violence.
"I am concerned about the prospect of demonstrations getting out of hand, and concerned about the possibility of violence," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers earlier this month.
Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security alone sent about 3,000 personnel to the RNC and will do the same for the DNC. That includes personnel from the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition to the DHS personnel, thousands of other federal authorities and thousands of state and local authorities are helping to protect each convention. And they are backed up with aerial support and a massive setup of barriers and fences to restrict access to venues -- an unprecedented level of security despite law enforcement knowing of no specific, credible threat to the conventions.
The convention in Philadelphia, however, presents new and different challenges than those facing officers and agents in Cleveland.
“They're two very different venues,” Clancy said. “The landscapes are much different.”
And even for experienced security officials involved, tensions run high until the candidates accept their party’s nominations and all the attendees and demonstrators go home safely.
“Absolutely I do get butterflies, absolutely feel the anxiety,” Clancy said of those last minutes inside the convention halls.
“You continue to go back over your plan,” he added. “You never think you’ve got your plan perfectly in place.”
According to Clancy, even if all goes well in Philadelphia, he won’t feel the pressure lifted until a full day after the convention ends.
“It usually takes about 24 hours after an event … you got to sleep on it a few hours,” he said.
iStock/Thinkstock(SANTA CLARITA, Calif.) -- A massive Los Angeles-area wildfire has burned more than 33,000 acres, averaging about 10,000 acres a day, said Chief Mike Wakoski, Incident Commander So Cal Team 3.
Firefighters have been working to battle the massive Sand Fire near Santa Clarita since Friday.
The blaze is at 10 percent containment, officials said Monday.
About 10,000 homes were evacuated and several thousand homes were saved by firefighters, officials said Monday.
One death has been reported, officials said Monday.
The blaze has destroyed about 18 structures.
Thousands of people are helping fight the blaze, including 341 engines and 21 helicopters, officials said.
iStock/Thinkstock(HADDAM, Conn.) — A small plane crashed into a house in Haddam, Connecticut, over the weekend, spiraling out of control and diving through the roof of Norman Hannenbaum's home. The plane landed just feet from where he was sitting inside the house.
"I was sitting on my sofa...then I hear this thump," Hannenbaum told ABC News. "I have a ceiling that has these boards, they all started falling. I was so shook up and was two to three feet from where boards started falling."
He ran outside and one of his neighbors told him a plane had just hit the house.
An eyewitness told ABC television affiliate WTNH, "All of a sudden it just banked and went right down."
At approximately 4 p.m., troopers and fire fighters responded to the scene. Officials from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) arrived to investigate the crash.
The single engine plane's sole occupant, 46-year-old pilot Benjamin Temple of East Rockaway, New York, was airlifted to Hartford Hospital. Temple was seriously hurt, though emergency responders say they expect him to recover. No one on the ground was hurt.
The FAA, state police and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are investigating.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A heat wave stretching from coast to coast has claimed at least 11 lives.
Over 100 million Americans have been affected by heat alerts issued in more than two dozen states with heat indexes in the triple digits across the U.S.
A 12-year-old died in Phoenix, Arizona, after hiking in the triple-degree heat on Friday.
In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a 4-year-old girl died Friday after being left for hours in a hot car as temperatures hit 97 degrees, police told ABC affiliate in Scranton WNEP-TV.
There were also five heat-related deaths this week in Roseville, Michigan, where temperatures soared into the high 80s and low 90s.
On Sunday, officials in Philadelphia said there were at least four heat-related deaths so far as the city prepared for the start of the Democratic National Convention. Protesters took to the streets, despite the heat, with extra water and medics on hand.