As Attorney General Loretta Lynch is set to face tough questions Tuesday about declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton, Republicans in the House of Representatives asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton had lied to Congress.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the House Judiciary Committee chairman, sent a rare criminal referral Monday to the Justice Department asking investigators to review Clinton’s sworn testimony that she didn’t jeopardize government secrets by setting up her own personal server while she was secretary of state.
Chaffetz and Goodlatte said they were asking for an inquiry as a result of testimony by FBI Director James Comey that he had investigated the email matter but had not looked into whether Clinton had lied to Congress.
“The evidence collected by the FBI during its investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email system appears to directly contradict several aspects of her sworn testimony,” the chairmen wrote Channing D. Phillips, the U.S. attorney in Washington. “In light of those contradictions, the department should investigate and determine whether to prosecute Secretary Clinton for violating statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.”
The chairmen also requested the FBI’s investigative file for its review of Clinton’s misuse of an email server.
Separately, more than 200 House Republicans sent a letter to Comey asking for more information on the decision not to charge Clinton or her aides.
“Secretary Clinton clearly placed our nation’s secrets in peril and your decision to not refer the case for prosecution has created a cloud over our nation’s justice system,” according to the letter. “No one is above the law and the American people deserve a more robust explanation for your decision.”
Clinton, who will officially accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president later this month, has been dogged for more than a year for exclusively using personal email routed through a private server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
Democrats will nominate Clinton to be their nominee at their national convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said last week that Republican actions on the email investigation were “another taxpayer-funded sham of an inquiry to try to hurt Hillary Clinton politically.”
"There is absolutely no credible evidence that anyone at the FBI did anything wrong in this investigation, that they pulled any punches, or that they were improperly influenced by anyone outside the agency," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on oversight committee. "Republicans are now squandering even more taxpayer dollars in a desperate attempt to keep this issue alive and bring down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers ahead of the election.”
It’s unclear whether Justice is required to investigate the referral’s allegations or how long that would take. Justice officials did not respond to questions Monday. But Comey and Lynch have repeatedly defended their decision as motivated by the law rather than by politics.
It’s very rare for Congress to ask Justice to investigate, said Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University, who said the department was likely to act.
“The Justice Department takes these things seriously,” he said. “They don’t want to antagonize a committee.”
In 2014, the House Ways and Means Committee sent a criminal referral to then-Attorney General Eric Holder regarding IRS employee Lois Lerner’s actions as part of an investigation into whether the IRS had subjected certain groups to extra scrutiny because of their political beliefs. Lerner wasn’t charged after a two-year inquiry.
In the Clinton email case, Republicans plan to continue to raise questions about her suitability and whether the Obama administration is trying to protect her presidential bid.
A majority of Americans disapprove of the FBI’s recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton and an even larger majority say the issue “makes them worried about how Clinton might act as president,” according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday.
This was not just extreme carelessness with classified material – which is still totally disqualifying. This is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct – followed by a cover-up that included false statements and lies to Congress, the media and the American people.
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump
“Congressional committees can’t necessarily draw knockout blows, but they can draw blood,” Baker said of the referral.
Lynch’s testimony Tuesday at the House Judiciary Committee comes after Comey faced intense questioning from Republicans in a nearly five-hour hearing last week about his conclusion that Clinton hadn’t violated the law.
Comey acknowledged, however, that several of Clinton’s statements about the arrangement weren’t accurate. She testified for 11 hours in October on Capitol Hill about the 2012 fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, during which she said she’d turned over all her emails, she had not sent or received classified information with markings, she had used only one device and that neither she nor her aides had deleted work-related emails.
Comey said her statement that she had neither sent nor received any items marked classified was not accurate.
“That is not true,” Comey said in a rapid-fire exchange with Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. “There were a small number of portion markings.”
Three emails were marked with a “(C),” which indicates material is confidential, the lowest level of classification, he testified.
However, Comey said his investigators had found no evidence that Clinton lied to the FBI about the email matter.
Comey said she had used multiple devices and that thousands of work-related emails were not turned over to the State Department, as it requested, but he could not say whether they were deleted intentionally.
Before the prosecution decision, Lynch had come under fire for meeting with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, when their planes were at the same airport.
Lynch then announced that she would review the case but would accept the recommendation of investigators and prosecutors at the FBI and Justice Department. She declined to recuse herself, however.
On Tuesday, the FBI assumed the role of prosecutor and not simply investigator and took the unprecedented act of proclaiming that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.
Letter from House Republicans to FBI Director James Comey
Tuesday’s hearing will be Lynch’s second appearance before the committee as attorney general. It’s expected to touch on other issues, as well, including the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Goodlatte said he planned to ask about the Clinton matter because he was troubled by Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton.
“No one is above the law, and the American people need to know that federal law enforcement is taking this misconduct seriously,” he said of the email use.