House Republicans were left deeply unsatisfied Tuesday after a five-hour committee hearing in which Attorney General Loretta Lynch deflected questions at least 74 times about her decision to not bring criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified emails.
Lynch also faced harsh criticism from the GOP and some Democrats over a private meeting she had on an Arizona airport tarmac with former President Bill Clinton days before the results of an investigation of the former first lady were made public.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee grew so frustrated that one Republican asked a staffer to keep a tally on how many times Lynch avoided answering a question, which totaled 74 instances. Another GOP member openly pined for Lynch’s predecessor, Eric Holder.
Lynch was asked to appear before the committee less than 24 hours after FBI Director James B. Comey announced he would not recommend prosecuting Hillary Clinton after the FBI found she mishandled classified information on a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
Comey testified about his decision at an earlier nearly five-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week.
The attorney general accepted Comey’s findings the following day. But on Tuesday, she repeatedly refused to tell Congress what information she reviewed to come to that decision, including whether she saw any information related to Clinton’s interview with the FBI days before the investigation ended.
“The information the team provides to me on this or any other case has to be given in a zone of confidentially so they can be clear and sure that there’s never a political overtone to their decisions,” Lynch said.
She also stated unequivocally that she has had “no conversations about email servers with either” Hillary Clinton or her husband, whom she met with briefly at the Phoenix airport days before Comey announced his decision.
Republicans blasted what they called Lynch’s lack of transparency and failure to answer simple questions.
“It’s clear that, a little over an hour into today’s hearing, Attorney General Lynch has no intention of answering any of our questions regarding the department’s decision not to charge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, even the most basic questions about the legal elements the government is obligated to prove in a criminal prosecution,” Goodlatte said in a statement.
When asked whether she would seek to remain in her post in a Clinton Cabinet, she said she was focused on finishing out her job with the current administration.
“You’ve been very good at burning up the time and stonewalling.” Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas told Lynch.
Florida GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis called it a “hear no evil, see no evil performance.”
Democrats, in turn, knocked Republicans for not focusing the hearing on public policy following recent gun violence that took the lives of citizens and police officers. Instead, the hearing became a “fishing expedition,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said.
“It’s a reckless legislative joy ride designed to crash and burn,” the New York Democrat said. “It’s a sham.”
“We have held, of course, zero hearings on gun violence,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. “We have passed no bills to address the issue.”
Republicans spent much of their questioning on Lynch’s private meeting with Bill Clinton in Phoenix days before the FBI concluded the yearlong investigation.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan took issue with Lynch’s decision following that meeting to accept whatever the FBI recommended before the investigation was even over, to avoid the appearance that the former president had any influence.
“You made a bad decision worse,” Jordan said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz called it “pretty stunning” when Lynch avoided answering legal questions the Utah Republican asked in regards to whether people who don’t have security clearances could review classified information.
“These questions are pretty simple,” Chaffetz said. “Somebody asked me to consult an attorney and you are the attorney general. And I think you’re sending a terrible message to the world.”