GOP chairman defends Clinton email server security inquiry

GOP chairman defends Clinton email server security inquiry

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Wis.) is striking back at accusations that he is selectively leaking information about the security of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family MORE’s personal email server, arguing that his releases are meant to show transparency.

“The reason those things came to light, those revelations, was because of the transparency of the investigation,” he said at a Wednesday hearing.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The issues at stake involve national security issues,” Johnson added. “We have to assume that everything that was on Secretary Clinton’s email is in the hands of our enemies.”

Johnson's committee is investigating the private email setup Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, used during her time as secretary of State. Security specialists have worried the server arrangement lacked the proper cyber defenses to keep out hackers and foreign cyber spies, although Clinton's team has maintain there is no evidence that her account or server was ever breached.

Earlier this month, Johnson released a letter from the inquiry that showed cyberattacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany had targeted Clinton’s private server after she left the Obama administration in early 2013. The missive also noted the server had a three-month gap during which a critical threat monitoring product was not installed, possibly exposing the server to other attacks.

But Johnson took heat on Wednesday from Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts MORE (D-Mo.) for trying to cherry pick which portions of the inspection get out before its completion.

“My concern is the selective release of information has created a public narrative that prejudges the outcome of the investigation and creates an incomplete and potentially misleading picture for the public of the record before the committee,” said McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Investigations, during a Homeland Security hearing on Central American migration.

Johnson fired right back.

“This committee's all about transparency,” Johnson said. “We have certainly been working with the minority staff on these things, and they’ve been aware of the letters we’re sending.

“If you’re truly serious about working with me,” he added, “I think you first would have talked to me privately as opposed to politicizing this in a hearing on unaccompanied children, a really serious problem.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Del.), the Homeland Security panel’s top Democrat, jumped in, trying to strike a middle ground.

“I share the concerns raised by the senator from Missouri,” he started.

Carper stressed that Johnson is “free” to do investigative work and publicly release the findings.

“What is troubling here [is] whether only part of the information was being released,” Carper said.

“We talked here several times about the Golden Rule, and it really applies in almost everything we do,” he added. “How would we want to be treated if we were in the other person’s shoes.”

Johnson explained that it is part of the committee’s oversight responsibility to create public pressure on the federal agencies investigating Clinton’s email arrangement.

“We need to find out what classified information might be on those emails that now may be in the hands of our enemy, or enemies, so that we can mitigate any kind of harm,” he said. “This is a very serious, serious effort on the part of this committee.”

Johnson elaborated in a Thursday statement. 

"I hope Senator McCaskill will rejoin me in pursuing the facts," he said. "It's no more complicated than that. The facts owe no allegiance to a political party. The facts have no axe to grind. My objective is to pursue them and to let those facts speak for themselves."

The committee agreed on Wednesday to a unanimous consent request from McCaskill to publicly release all internal documents that Johnson used in drafting his letter.  

“Thank you for agreeing to the unanimous consent request,” Carper said. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

“I’m all about transparency,” Johnson replied.