Clinton camp pushes back as GOP challenges FBI, seeks probe
By Associated Press | August 17, 2016, 6:31 EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton’s campaign is pushing back against congressional Republicans who have challenged the FBI’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against the Democratic presidential nominee and have pressed for yet another investigation.
Having failed to find evidence to support their claims that Clinton was negligent in preventing or stopping the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, Republicans are now focused on whether Clinton shaded the truth about her haphazard handling of emails containing government secrets.
Furious the FBI didn’t press charges against their political rival, House GOP members asked the agency for notes from its agents’ July interview with Clinton. The FBI provided Congress on Tuesday with a raft of documents from its yearlong investigation that it wrapped up last month.
Republicans claim the FBI notes, which are typically kept confidential, may show Clinton provided inconsistent answers to questions about her handling of emails containing classified information during testimony last year before the House Benghazi panel.
Democrats, meanwhile, expressed concern that the Republicans would leak snippets of the classified materials carefully selected to make the presidential candidate look bad without providing a fair account of what happened.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said Tuesday the campaign would like the FBI notes to be publicly released in full.
“This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI,” Fallon said. “We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.”
A spokeswoman for the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said that the panel’s staff is reviewing documents that are classified as secret.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the panel received “FBI witness interview reports, including that of Secretary Clinton’s interview, along with other materials from the FBI’s now closed investigative file.”
The FBI, in a statement, made clear that it expected lawmakers to use the documents for oversight and not to selectively leak details three months before the election.
“The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence,” the agency said.
The FBI last month closed its yearlong probe into whether Clinton and her aides mishandled sensitive information that flowed through a private email server located in the basement of her New York home. Though he described Clinton’s actions as “extremely careless,” FBI Director James Comey said his agents found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Clinton said last year that she turned over all 55,000 pages of work-related emails from her server, but said she deleted thousands more she and her lawyers deemed as personal. Clinton also says she never sent any information by email that was marked as classified.
More than 100 emails exchanged by Clinton were subsequently reviewed and determined to contain information considered classified. As evidence Clinton lied, Republicans point to three email chains forwarded to Clinton that contained paragraphs marked “(C),” signifying they contained classified information.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, said Clinton did not originate the three email chains in question, which were forwarded to her private account by aides. He said only one of those emails was later determined by the State Department to contain classified information.
“The FBI already determined unanimously that there is insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” said Cummings, D-Md. “Republicans are now investigating the investigator in a desperate attempt to resuscitate this issue, keep it in the headlines, and distract from Donald Trump’s sagging poll numbers.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the FBI allowed the department to review emails the agency is providing Congress.
“I think we’re satisfied after having reviewed these emails that the FBI has made arrangements that the documents will be transmitted subject to appropriate handling controls,” he said, adding that the department respects the FBI’s desire to accommodate the requests of its congressional oversight committees.
Toner said, however, that the department is still discussing with the FBI the release of additional notes from the interviews investigators did with Clinton and her aides.
The announcement comes as the conservative group Judicial Watch announced that it would receive copies of thousands of previously undisclosed work-related emails sent or received by Clinton. The emails, recovered as part of the FBI’s probe, were recently returned to the State Department.