House Republicans summoned Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Capitol Hill Tuesday to testify on Hillary Clinton’s emails, but House Democrats were not interested in further discussing a topic they believe has already been exhausted.
Republicans intended to use the “Oversight of the Department of Justice” hearing to learn more about why Lynch closed the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. They seek a perjury investigation from the department, alleging Clinton lied while testifying to Congress on the topic.
But instead of questioning Lynch on that issue, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee used the opportunity to discuss the recent shootings of black men in Louisana and Minnesota, the fatal shootings of police in Dallas, gun violence, and the need for criminal justice reform. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., berated Republicans for continuing to harp on Clinton’s emails.
“There are only three working days, some count it less, left this month, and then we adjourn for seven weeks. How will my colleagues on the other side of the aisle choose to fill that time? Today, apparently Secretary Hillary Clinton's email takes precedence over gun violence and civil rights,” Conyers said.
“Let us be clear: The criminal investigation is closed. There was no intentional wrongdoing. [FBI] Director [James] Comey, whose reputation for independence and integrity is unquestioned, has explained his reasoning in great detail. If any of my colleagues are not yet convinced, it is because they do not want to be convinced, and in their zeal to call Secretary Clinton a liar or maybe even a criminal, despite the fact and despite the law, I fear we will have missed an opportunity to engage with you on more worthy subjects,” Conyers told Lynch.
Conyers called on the House to make criminal justice reform a priority, and said the committee had reached agreements on sentencing and prison reform. He also said Democratics and Republicans were close to an agreement on policing reform legislation.
“Questions about the use of lethal force by police are not new, but the nation is newly engaged in the issue after Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore,” Conyers said, listing several high profile instances of violence against black people in the past several years. “Over the past week, we saw the same sad themes play out in Baton Rouge and Minnesota as well as the horrific killing of five police officers in Dallas. I believe it's more critical than ever that we reach a final agreement on police accountability and standards.”
Lynch announced last week no federal charges would be brought against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Clinton. Republicans were outraged that despite what Comey called Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of classified information, he was not recommending Lynch indict Clinton. The attorney general had announced she would follow the recommendation of the bureau when it came to prosecuting Clinton.
Comey was questioned in a lengthy House hearing last week on his decision not recommend an indictment.
In her opening statement, Lynch did not mention Clinton or her emails, but spoke about recent police and gun violence and said her department would work with other law enforcement agencies and police departments around the country to ensure the safety of officers while building “bonds of trust and cooperation” with the community.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., also raised the issue of gun violence during Tuesday’s hearing.
“Exactly one month ago today, a lone gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. Mass shootings are now an all too common occurrence in this country,” Nadler said. “As you know, every day on average, nearly 300 Americans are shot ... This is a distinctly American problem.”