Lynch dodges on role in Clinton probe

Getty Images

Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday refused to outline her role in overseeing a possible criminal case stemming from the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCardinal Dolan: 'Very touching moments' between Trump, Clinton Poll: Large majority says loser should accept election results Al Smith V: Trump 'crossed the line' at charity roast MORE’s private email server.

“We don’t discuss the specifics of any ongoing investigation,” Lynch said in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in response to repeated questions from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court More Senate Republicans pressure Treasury over debt-equity rules MORE (R-Texas).

“With respect to the procedure relating to any specific witness, I would not be able to comment.”

Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, pressed Lynch on the Justice Department’s role in granting immunity to Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton aide who is believed to have set up her “homebrew” email server. 

News of the Justice Department’s decision last week raised the stakes in the ongoing probe connected to Clinton’s unusual email behavior while she was secretary of State. 

“If, in fact, this was immunity granted by a court, that had to be done under the auspices and with the approval of the Department of Justice, which you head,” Cornyn, a former judge, told Lynch.

The level of Justice Department involvement “would certainly depend on the type of immunity that was granted,” Lynch responded, while refusing to discuss Pagliano’s case.

“With respect to Mr. Pagliano or anyone who has been identified as a potential witness in any case, I’m not able to comment on the specifics,” she added.

Cornyn has been one of the Senate’s most vocal lawmakers about the investigation connected to Clinton’s server. In recent months, he has taken to the floor of the Senate to call for Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to handle any possible criminal charges that might result from the investigation, which the Democratic presidential front-runner has largely shrugged off.

He and other Republicans have worried that Lynch would refuse to pursue a case against Clinton or her top allies due to the obvious heightened political tensions.

“The public has a right to know the facts, even if those facts don’t result in prosecution,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: I'd consider Clinton Supreme Court pick Senior Verizon exec believes hack will affect Yahoo deal GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Iowa) told Lynch during Wednesday’s hearing.

“If the FBI were to make a referral to the Department of Justice to pursue a case by way of indictment and to convene a grand jury for that purpose, the Department of Justice is not required by law to do so, are they — are you?” Cornyn pressed Lynch.

Again, the attorney general demurred.

"It would not be an operation of law; it would be an operation of procedures," Lynch said.

Pursuit of criminal cases is “done in conjunction with the agents” investigating the matter, she testified. “It’s not something that we would want to cut them out of the process.”