GOP chairmen slam 'unusual restrictions' on FBI Clinton probe

GOP chairmen slam 'unusual restrictions' on FBI Clinton probe
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Four Republican committee chairmen on Wednesday pressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on what they termed “the unusual restrictions” placed on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Trump says he's not prepared to lose in 2020 MORE’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.

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In a letter to Lynch, they pointed to a pair of letters from Beth Wilkinson, an attorney for two of Clinton’s lawyers, that laid out a limited immunity agreement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to in exchange for cooperation with the investigation.

“The Wilkinson letters raise serious questions about why DOJ would consent to such substantial limitations on the scope of its investigation, and how [FBI Director James] Comey’s statements on the scope of the investigation comport with the reality of what the FBI was permitted to investigate,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFormer chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties House Dems seek to make officials feel the pain MORE (R-Utah), Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley raises concerns about objectivity of report critical of GOP tax law's effects Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward MORE (R-Iowa), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) wrote.

Members of a few committees and “one or two staff members” were allowed to review the letters last week but could not take notes or make any record of them, according to lawmakers.

According to members who saw the documents, Wilkinson and the DOJ negotiated a deal for Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, who sorted Clinton’s personal emails from her work-related ones before turning over 30,000 to the State Department in 2014.

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.

The immunity deal promised that the Justice Department would not prosecute Mills or Samuelson based on information obtained from the laptops.

It also limited the emails that the FBI was allowed to review to those sent between June 1, 2014, and Feb. 1, 2015, and promised that the DOJ would destroy the laptops at the close of the probe.

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

The four lawmakers took issue with the restrictions on reviewing the letters, the timeframe limitations and the agreement to destroy the laptops.

The timeframe limitations, according to the Wednesday letter, “would necessarily have excluded, for example, any emails from Cheryl Mills to Paul Combetta in late 2014 or early 2015 directing the destruction or concealment of federal records.”

House Republicans are investigating whether Clinton ordered Combetta, an employee with the Denver-based firm that managed Clinton’s server, to destroy records that were under congressional subpoena.

The FBI’s agreement to destroy the laptops, the lawmakers write, was “astonishing” given that “the contents were the subject of Congressional subpoenas and preservation letters.”

Meanwhile, the limitations placed upon congressional review of the letters, they say, “interferes with our constitutional obligation to conduct oversight of this matter.”

They demanded unredacted copies of the Wilkinson letters and copies of immunity agreements offered to several other individuals implicated in the probe, including Combetta.

They also demanded to know the rationale behind the terms of the agreement and further information on what was found on the laptops by Oct. 19.

Republicans have long suggested that Comey received pressure from the Justice Department not to recommend charges against Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee.

Comey has passionately defended the integrity of the probe, pushing back fiercely on claims that the investigation was rigged or politicized.

“You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels,” he said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week. “We are honest people. Whether or not you agree with the result, this was done the way you want it to be done.”