Congress opens probe into FBI’s handling of Clinton e-mail investigation
Two House committees announced Tuesday that they would conduct a joint probe into the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. The Clinton investigation concluded with no charges being levied against the former secretary of state who was running for president under the Democratic ticket.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in a joint statement that they are unsatisfied with how the probe into Clinton's private e-mail server concluded. Among other things, the chairmen want to know why the bureau publicly said it was investigating Clinton while keeping silent that it was looking into President Donald Trump's campaign associates and their connections to Russia.
"Our justice system is represented by a blind-folded woman holding a set of scales. Those scales do not tip to the right or the left; they do not recognize wealth, power, or social status," Goodlatte and Gowdy said in a joint statement. "The impartiality of our justice system is the bedrock of our republic, and our fellow citizens must have confidence in its objectivity, independence, and evenhandedness. The law is the most equalizing force in this country. No entity or individual is exempt from oversight."
The development amounts to the second probe of the Clinton e-mail server. The Justice Department is also investigating the FBI's pre-election handling of the Clinton e-mail probe. In July, then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump subsequently fired, said Clinton should not be prosecuted in connection to her use of a private e-mail server.
Following Comey's July announcement, he next publicly spoke about the Clinton situation on October 28—a week before the election—saying that the bureau discovered more e-mails relevant to the criminal inquiry that needed to be examined. Days later, on November 6—just two days before the election—Comey announced that the newly discovered e-mail was unrelated to the Clinton investigation.
Comey's actions prompted many after the election to conclude that he helped thwart Clinton's chances of winning the presidency—claims that are now being investigated by the Justice Department's inspector general.
Here is what the Oversight and Judiciary committees will investigate:
- FBI's decision to publicly announce the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified information but not to publicly announce the investigation into campaign associates of then-candidate Donald Trump.
- FBI's decision to notify Congress by formal letter of the status of the investigation both in October and November of 2016.
- FBI's decision to appropriate full decision-making in respect to charging or not charging Secretary Clinton to the FBI rather than the DOJ.
- FBI's timeline with respect to charging decisions.
That said, the chairmen's timing of the announcement was unclear. But it comes a year after the FBI cleared Clinton of any charges of illegally handling classified material and a month after it was revealed that Jared Kushner, a senior Trump advisor married to the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been using private e-mail to conduct White House affairs.
All of this is to the backdrop of a massive investigation by Robert Mueller—a former FBI director appointed as an independent investigator—into the Trump campaign and its connections to Russia.
"Decisions made by the Department of Justice in 2016 have led to a host of outstanding questions that must be answered," the chairmen said.
Trump fired Comey in May for his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. Comey's removal was recommended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein wrote in a Justice Department memo that Comey was wrong to close the investigation into whether Clinton should be prosecuted for running a private e-mail server from her New York residence when she was secretary of state. Comey also should not have announced on July 5 that the investigation was closed, Rosenstein said. "The director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."
Instead of saying the FBI examination was closed, the director should have announced that the probe was completed and referred the matter to federal prosecutors to decide whether to prosecute, Rosenstein wrote.