Tuesday 27 September 2016

Republicans in fresh attack on Clinton over her deleted emails

Stephen Baur

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Hilary Clinton. Photo: Reuters
Hilary Clinton. Photo: Reuters

The Republican chairman of the House committee investigating Hillary Clinton's email practices asked a federal prosecutor yesterday to determine whether she or others working with her played a role in the deletion of thousands of her emails by a Colorado technology firm.

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The firm was overseeing her private computer server in 2015.

The written request by Republican Jason Chaffetz, from Utah, puts further pressure on Mrs Clinton over the emails controversy.

The FBI has decided not to press for criminal charges after a year-long investigation.

Mrs Clinton and her longtime aide and lawyer, Cheryl Mills, told FBI investigators during questioning that they had no knowledge of the deletions. Those occurred separately from the email deletions overseen by the former secretary of state's legal team last year before she turned over 33,000 work-related messages to the State Department. The FBI's recently released summaries of its investigation did not offer any evidence contradicting their statements.

In a separate letter Mr Chaffetz - the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman - warned the Denver-based tech firm, which hosted Mrs Clinton's server, that one of its engineers who deleted Mrs Clinton's electronic files last year could face federal charges of obstructing justice and destroying evidence for erasing the material.

That's because the congressional inquiry into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, had issued a formal order on March 3, 2015, to preserve such records.

The moves by the GOP led-House committee amount to a serious new political speedbump for Mrs Clinton's presidential campaign, which was spared a legal ordeal in July when FBI director James Comey upbraided her for careless email practices but declined to seek criminal charges after the bureau's investigation.

Donald Trump and GOP allies have urged the appointment of an independent prosecutor - an unlikely prospect so late in the presidential election.

The sparse evidence laid out in Mr Chaffetz's letters - highlighting a March 2015 phone discussion between Platte River Networks and Clinton lawyers that FBI agents were unable to detail - also shows the uphill climb the committee faces in turning up any significant new information beyond what the FBI already learned in its inquiry.

"The bottom line is these documents were destroyed and they were records under subpoena," Chaffetz said. "Secretary Clinton has fought this every step of the way. The election should not slow down this probe."

Clinton's campaign dismissed Chaffetz's outline of the email deletions as a "conspiracy theory" debunked by the FBI investigation.

"This is yet another example of the congressman abusing his office by wasting further taxpayer resources on partisan attacks," Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said.

Platte River Networks and its lawyer were not immediately available for comment.

Chaffetz's letter to the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Channing Phillips, comes nearly two months after the House committee similarly asked the same prosecutor to determine whether Clinton committed perjury and made false statements in testimony to congressional committees.

The new referral asked the Justice Department to "investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries and concealment or cover up of evidence material to a congressional investigation".

Irish Independent

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