GOP chairman presses DOJ on destruction of Clinton laptops

GOP chairman presses DOJ on destruction of Clinton laptops
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is pressing Attorney General Loretta Lynch to explain the circumstances surrounding the immunity deals given to two of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE’s lawyers.

Republicans have seized on the deals to question whether the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State was mishandled.

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“Like many things about this case, these new materials raise more questions than answers,” Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe job of shielding journalists is not finished Bottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden MORE (R-Va.) wrote in a letter to Lynch.

The immunity deals were reached by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Beth Wilkinson, who is representing Clinton lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Goodlatte demanded written answers from Lynch to a series of questions and a briefing with Justice staff no later than Oct. 10.

Among other things, the chairman wants to know why the FBI agreed that Mills’s and Samuelson’s laptops — turned over under the immunity deal — were to be destroyed after a search was completed.

He also demanded to know why the DOJ agreed to limit its search to documents no later than Jan. 31, 2015, “and therefore give up any opportunity to find evidence related to the destruction of evidence or obstruction of justice.”

“Why was this time limit necessary when Ms. Mills and Ms. Samuelson were granted immunity for any potential destruction of evidence charges?” Goodlatte asked.

Goodlatte also asked a series of questions about the contents of the laptops, including how many documents were reviewed by the FBI, how many documents were withheld from investigators because they fell outside of a date range agreed upon by Wilkinson and the DOJ, and how many classified documents were on each laptop.

Mills and Samuelson, who were acting as Clinton's attorneys throughout the proceedings, turned over their computers to the FBI as part of the investigation into whether Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee, illegally transmitted classified information through the server.

Mills and Samuelson had used the laptops to sort out what they believed to be Clinton's personal emails, before turning over the remainder of her work emails to the State Department in December 2014.

The immunity deal promised that the Justice Department would not prosecute Mills or Samuelson based on information obtained from the laptops, according to Oversight Committee Democrats, who have also reviewed the deal.

Wilkinson has said that she advised them to take the deal "because of the confusion surrounding the various agencies’ positions on the after-the-fact classification decisions."

"As the government indicated in these letters, the DOJ and FBI considered my clients to be witnesses and nothing more. Indeed, the Justice Department assured us that they believed my clients did nothing wrong," Wilkinson said in a statement when the news of the immunity deal broke last month.

Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff during her tenure at State and has become one focus of the committee’s probe into whether Clinton ordered the deletion of emails that were under congressional subpoena.

In 2014, according to the FBI’s notes on its investigation, Mills instructed the IT firm that managed Clinton’s server to delete a set of archived emails. Mills told investigators that Clinton had decided she no longer needed access to emails older than 60 days.

But the technician apparently forgot the request and didn’t comply until after the House Benghazi Committee had issued a subpoena ordering that all records relating to the 2012 attacks in Libya be preserved.

Republicans have claimed that the deletion of the archive constitutes destruction of evidence.

Clinton and Mills told the FBI that they had no knowledge of the technician deleting the emails.

Goodlatte also wanted to know whether the deals between Wilkinson and the Justice Department — struck on June 10 — were the entirety of the immunity agreements granted during the investigation.

Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE (R-Utah) has hammered the Justice Department for “handing out immunity agreements like candy.”

The IT technician that deleted the emails, Paul Combetta, and the State Department technician who set up the server, Bryan Pagliano, were also reportedly offered some form of immunity in exchange for their testimony.