House Republicans want the FBI to review statements Hillary Clinton made under oath last October when she told a congressional panel that she did not handle classified emails through a private, unsecured server when she was secretary of state.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said at a hearing that Clinton’s statements before a select committee investigating the deadly 2012 terror attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, contradicted FBI findings this week on her overall use of the server that 110 emails in 52 email chains contained classified information when they were sent or received.
Details of those communications were not disclosed. But FBI Director James B. Comey told the Oversight panel that of the 30,000 emails reviewed by the FBI, only a handful containing classified material were actually marked as such — a potentially contentious point if the Republican investigation of her 2012 testimony proceeds.
And he said that Clinton, also a former first lady, senator and now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, did not willfully intend to violate any laws through the use of the unauthorized email server that was located in the basement of her home in New York.
He did say, however, that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information” while Clinton served as America’s top diplomat during President Barack Obama’s first term. Comey also didn’t know if her system was hacked, but noted that it was possible “hostile actors” gained access.
Republicans were outraged at Comey’s findings and cast a skeptical eye on his justification for not pursuing a criminal case. They suggested that Clinton received special treatment, and saw an opening for further scrutiny as seen in a key exchange during the hearing.
“Did Hillary Clinton lie under oath?” Chaffez asked Comey.
“Not to the FBI,” Comey replied, who also said she was not under oath when she talked to agents.
“Did you review the documents where Congressman Jim Jordan asked her specifically (last October) and she said ‘there was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received?'” Chaffetz asked.
“I don’t remember reviewing that particular testimony, but I’m aware of that being said, though,” Comey answered.
“Did the FBI investigate her statements under oath on this topic?” asked Chaffetz.
“Not to my knowledge. I don’t think there’s been a referral from Congress,” Comey responded.
“Do you need a referral from Congress to investigate her statements under oath?” Chaffetz followed up.
“Sure do,” Comey said.
“You’ll have one,” Chaffetz promised.
Aside from questions about Clinton’s congressional testimony last fall and a request by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan for Comey to release unclassified findings of the email probe, House and Senate Republicans also want Obama administration officials to limit or revoke her access to classified information during the campaign.
As a presidential nominee she is entitled to briefings on national security and other sensitive topics.
“It stands to reason that individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ with classified information so be denied further access to that type of information,” Ryan said in a letter to James Clapper, who as director of national intelligence coordinates U.S. intelligence activities.
In his testimony, Comey defended his decision not to recommend criminal charges, saying the investigation was handled “by people who don’t give a hoot about politics.” He said the team arrived at its decision unanimously.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch On Wednesday accepted the FBI’s recommendation and declined to press charges.
Comey reiterated comments from earlier in the week that no reasonable prosecutor could take up the case because the FBI did not conclude Clinton willfully broke the law when mishandling classified information.
“I know that frustrates people but that’s the way the law is,” Comey said.
Democrats called the hearing with Comey a “political witch hunt.
Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said Comey’s appearance was a ploy by Republicans who turned against the FBI director because they did not get the outcome they wanted.
“In their eyes, you had one job, and one job only, to prosecute Hillary Clinton,” Cummings said.
Democrats say Republicans — through their Benghazi investigation and now their intention to further the email probe — only want to make trouble for Clinton as she runs for president.
— Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.