Furious GOP lashes out at FBI

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Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional Republicans are expressing anger and disbelief at the FBI’s decision that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted for her use of a private email account while at the State Department. 

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was first out of the gate, declaring in a tweet that “the system is rigged” after FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend charges against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, even though his agency concluded her actions were “extremely careless.” 

{mosads}Ryan did not go quite as far as Trump, but he gave a green light for other Republicans to lash out at the FBI.

“While I respect the law enforcement professionals at the FBI, this announcement defies explanation,” Ryan said in a statement, warning it could put the nation’s secrets at future risk. “Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.” 

Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, “If she were a Republican, she would have been indicted by now.”

Texas Rep. Roger Williams (R) called it “a failure of our justice system.” 

“From the very beginning, this investigation was more about protecting Secretary Clinton’s reputation, than actually finding out the truth,” he said in a statement. 

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said the FBI’s announcement “essentially gives her a pass based on politics, pure and simple.” 

He said voters are “sick and tired of the Washington elite insiders living under a different set of rules” and echoed Ryan’s warning that Comey’s statement “sets a dangerous precedent moving forward.” 

Democrats largely stayed out of the debate. Aides to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) did not respond to requests for comment. 

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (Vt.) was one of the few voices in Congress to publicly come to Comey’s defense.

“The FBI took its responsibilities seriously, and came to a conclusion after carefully reviewing all the evidence,” he said in a statement. “I take Director Comey at his word that the FBI honestly and independently conducted an apolitical and professional investigation.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also praised Comey and the FBI for “a thorough and objective review,” noting his past service in a Republican administration.

Many Republicans said they could not reconcile the FBI’s decision not to prosecute with its finding that more than 113 emails processed by Clinton’s private server contained classified information, while eight chains contained information that were at the time considered top secret. 

After interviewing with the FBI over the Fourth of July weekend, Clinton told Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that “I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified.” 

At his press conference Tuesday, Comey offered a detailed explanation of his agency’s decision. The FBI director rebuked Clinton in that statement, noting that while only a few of the 113 messages were marked classified, she and her aides “should have known” the information wasn’t appropriate for an unclassified system.

Still, Comey said the FBI could not “find a case that would support bringing criminal charges.”

Senior Republican lawmakers said that explanation fell short and are pushing the FBI to release more of the materials it gathered during the investigation. 

“If it wants to avoid giving the impression that the FBI was pulling punches, because many people in a similar situation would face some sort of consequence, the agency must now be more transparent than ever in releasing information gathered during its investigation,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The unusual timing of the announcement fueled suspicions about possible political motives, coming just hours before Clinton was set to make her first public campaign appearance with President Obama in Charlotte, N.C.

“It was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time,” Trump said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

He and other Republicans pointed to an unusual meeting last week between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, who appointed her U.S. attorney in 1999, had on an airport tarmac in Phoenix.

Lynch admitted the meeting created the impression of a possible attempt to exert political influence on the investigation and pledged to follow the advice of career government prosecutors. 

Republicans were also riled by the announcement of the FBI’s decision only a few days after Clinton sat down for a private interview with its investigators over the holiday weekend. Expert observers had expected it would take at least a week to evaluate her answers.

“Bill Clinton didn’t accidentally run into the Attorney General on the airport tarmac last week in Phoenix. Hillary Clinton didn’t accidentally sneak into the FBI during one of the country’s biggest holiday weekends to testify on her illegal activities, something that wouldn’t be afforded to others under investigation (and on a Saturday of all days),” Trump said in his statement. 

Under other circumstances, Trump’s claim that Comey, who was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in 2002 by former President George W. Bush, is driven by partisan motives might have caused other Republicans to distance themselves. On Tuesday, they rallied behind him.

“Today Comey and Obama’s [Department of Justice] made it clear to the American people there’s no accountability, no justice & the Clintons live by different rules,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

“This is a loss for the rule of law and further degrades Americans’ faith in the justice system,” he added. 

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Tuesday reiterated Republican calls for the appointment of an independent counsel.

“The investigation by the FBI is steeped in political bias, especially considering that former President Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch just days before the FBI announced its decision,” he said in a statement.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said his panel would continue its own investigation into whether Clinton improperly exposed national secrets. 

“The FBI’s statement today reinforces my concern that Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server put our nation’s secrets at risk,” he said. “I will continue my committee’s oversight to help preserve federal records and protect our national security.”  

Other Republicans held back from hitting Comey directly.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, and other Senate Republicans focused on Clinton instead.

“While the FBI has made their decision, it won’t change the fact that Secretary Clinton flouted oversight and transparency norms by using a private email server,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.  

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