Five panels to grill FBI on Clinton

Greg Nash

Furious congressional Republicans are launching a multipronged attack against the FBI and Hillary Clinton.

A total of five congressional committees will either hold hearings with high-profile law enforcement officials over the next week or have already begun inquiries to the FBI about its investigation of the former secretary of State.

{mosads}Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for Clinton to be barred from the intelligence briefings typically given to presidential nominees and said that State Department officials should be subjected to administrative penalties for support of the former secretary’s use of a private email server.

Senate GOP leaders, meanwhile, are pushing for the FBI to release the transcript of its 3.5-hour interview with Clinton over the July Fourth weekend.

Congress has just a few days left before it skips town for the presidential nominating conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, and Republicans are giving signals that they intend to spend much of that time hammering home their criticism that the presumptive Democratic nominee is deceitful and has endangered national security.

Comey is due before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday morning, just two days after announcing that he would not recommend charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information. 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch late Wednesday announced she would follow Comey’s recommendation and that no criminal charges would be forthcoming.

At the top of the list of questions Comey faces is why he made the decision despite calling Clinton’s behavior “extremely careless,” and the multiple discrepancies between Clinton’s narrative and the FBI’s, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said on Fox News.  

“We’re different in this nation. We’re open, we’re transparent,” Chaffetz said.

“If somehow somebody is dealing in classified information for years at a time and putting people in harm’s way and yet people are still not prosecuted, the law probably needs to be updated or they’re not properly applying the law,” Chaffetz added. “That’s why we need to explore this.”

Next Tuesday, Lynch will testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

And two days after that, Comey is scheduled to be back on Capitol Hill to sit before the House Homeland Security Committee, a spokeswoman said. The briefing will examine worldwide threats, but will surely be used as an opportunity for lawmakers to take shots at the Clinton investigation.

In the Senate, leaders of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees have sent letters to Comey asking for additional information about the FBI’s probe.

Hearings haven’t been scheduled yet, but Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested they might not be far off.  

“Generally the process I go through is I write oversight letters, wait for the response and then we’ll see if a hearing is necessary,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Obviously the House is moving forward with hearings. We’ll be interested in hearing the answers to their questions.”

The flurry of activity comes as a swift rebuke of the FBI and its director, whom GOP lawmakers had recently been praising for his reputation as a dedicated cop who pays no mind to politics.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sounded a different note Wednesday on Comey.

“I’m sorry to say I and other observers had long predicted that the decision whether to proceed against Hillary Clinton would be driven in this administration by partisan, political factors rather than an objective assessment about whether her conduct violated criminal statutes,” he told reporters.

“Director Comey’s announcement this week only seems to confirm those concerns, and I am hopeful we will have full and complete transparency with the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people as to all of the information that went into the director’s decision.”

Still, Republicans will have a fine line to walk.

Democrats appear ready to accuse them of hypocrisy, given their previous acclaim for the FBI director’s integrity.

“For weeks Republicans have said they trusted FBI Director Comey to lead an independent review into Secretary Clinton’s emails, but now they are second-guessing his judgment because his findings do not align with their conspiracy theories,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

Seizing on the moment, Clinton’s presidential campaign on Wednesday released a 40-second internet video highlighting interviews in which Chaffetz said Republicans “do believe in James Comey” and that he will be “the definitive person to make a determination of a recommendation.”

Perhaps wary of the tension, GOP leaders in both chambers are aiming their fire at Clinton instead.

Senate leaders want the FBI to release a transcript of the extended interview conducted with Clinton on Saturday, which they say should illuminate differences between her story about the email server and the bureau’s official version.

“The American people would like to see what Hillary Clinton said to the FBI,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday.

No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn (Texas) suggested that Clinton herself ask for the transcript to be released.

It would be “in her personal best interest,” he said.

Others, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), want the State Department to revoke security clearances for any officials who assisted Clinton with her unusual email setup.

Ryan, meanwhile, said that the director of national intelligence should refuse to give classified briefings to Clinton, over fears that she might jeopardize official secrets.

“I think [Director James] Clapper should deny Hillary Clinton access to classified information during this campaign given how she so recklessly handled classified information,” he said at a news conference.

The plea seemed to flip the script from Donald Trump; Democrats such as Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) have said the presumptive GOP presidential nominee shouldn’t be trusted with sensitive material. 

“Hillary Clinton was legally exonerated by the FBI yesterday, and I think that should clear up any questions that the public has about that issue,” Murphy said on Wednesday.

“My worry about Donald Trump is that he has absolutely no filter,” he added. “I’m not suggesting he would intentionally disclose classified information, but I just don’t think we can trust that he would keep his mouth shut.”

Katie Bo Williams contributed.

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