Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday rebuffed Republicans who questioned the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her misuse of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Despite facing persistent and sometimes impatient challenges from Republicans in the House of Representatives, Lynch testified that she thought it wouldn’t be proper for her to discuss in detail the prosecution team’s “unanimous recommendation” not to pursue charges against Clinton.
Lynch’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee came a day after House Republicans asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton had lied to Congress.
“While I understand that this investigation has generated significant public interest, as attorney general it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the underlying facts of the investigation or the legal basis for the team’s recommendation,” Lynch told members of the committee.
Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the Judiciary Committee chairman, told Lynch he remained troubled by FBI Director James Comey’s conclusions that Clinton’s mishandling of classified information was “extremely careless” but did not violate the law.
“This defies logic and the law,” Goodlatte said of Comey’s announcement, adding that he questioned the “timing and circumstances.”
Before officially closing the investigation, 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 still would review Hillary Clinton’s case but would accept the recommendation of investigators and prosecutors at the FBI and Justice Department. She declined to recuse herself.
Lynch told the committee Tuesday that she’d agreed to speak to Bill Clinton after he said he wanted to greet her. “We had a social conversation,” she said. “Nothing related to the email (inquiry) was discussed.”
Democrats criticized the committee’s questions as political, given that the Justice Department was struggling to react to a string of shootings, including Friday’s attack in Dallas that left five police officers dead and seven wounded. It was the deadliest attack on law enforcement officers since 9/11.
“We’re in the middle of an election season,” Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said of the Republicans’ questions. Two bailiffs were shot to death and a deputy was wounded in a courthouse shooting Monday in Berrien County, Michigan.
Hillary Clinton, who will officially accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president later this month at the convention, 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 from 2009 to 2013.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Goodlatte sent a rare criminal referral Monday to the Justice Department asking investigators to review Clinton’s sworn testimony that she hadn’t jeopardize government secrets.
Chaffetz and Goodlatte said they were asking for the inquiry as a result of Comey’s testimony that he had investigated the email matter but had not looked into whether Clinton had lied to Congress.
Comey faced intense questioning from Republicans in a nearly five-hour congressional hearing last week bout 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 a hearing last 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.
Lynch sidestepped questions Tuesday about the false-statement accusations, telling the committee it should direct its questions about Comey’s conclusions to him.
Clinton’s campaign has not responded to a request for comment on the criminal referral. 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.”