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Wednesday 17 January 2018

House Republicans to examine FBI decision on Clinton emails

FBI director James Comey makes a statement at FBI headquarters in Washington (AP)
FBI director James Comey makes a statement at FBI headquarters in Washington (AP)

House Republicans are summoning FBI director James Comey to Capitol Hill to answer their questions after the agency recommended that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges over her emails.

Mr Comey will testify on Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the panel's chairman, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came a day after Mr Comey rebuked Clinton for "extremely careless" behaviour in her handling of classified emails as secretary of state, but declared that "no charges are appropriate" in the case.

"There are a lot of questions that have to be answered. And so we're going to be asking those questions," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

"We have seen nothing but stonewalling and dishonesty from Secretary Clinton on this issue, and that means there are a lot more questions that need to be answered."

Mr Ryan said Mrs Clinton should be barred from receiving classified briefings in the course of the campaign. He said he would be looking into whether Congress could take action to enact such a prohibition. And asked whether a special prosecutor should be appointed in the case, Mr Ryan said he would not "foreclose any option".

Mr Ryan's comments reflected widespread anger, even disbelief, among Republicans over Mr Comey's announcement.

Mr Comey delivered a stinging assessment of Mrs Clinton's handling of classified emails, saying she should have known not to have sensitive discussions on an unclassified system and that she sent and received emails that were classified at the time, contrary to her claims.

But he followed up by saying no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges in such a case, partly because his investigators found no intentional or wilful mishandling of classified information.

"The FBI's recommendation is surprising and confusing," Mr Chaffetz said. "The fact pattern presented by Director Comey makes clear Secretary Clinton violated the law. Individuals who intentionally skirt the law must be held accountable."

Democrats were furious over Mr Chaffetz's decision to haul Mr Comey before his committee.

"Republican after Republican praised director Comey's impeccable record of independence - right up until the moment he issued his conclusion," said the committee's top Democrat representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland. "The only emergency here is that yet another Republican conspiracy theory is slipping away."

The House Judiciary Committee also announced that Attorney General Loretta Lynch would appear next week, as Republicans kept up their criticism of her recent brief tarmac meeting with former president Bill Clinton, which Ms Lynch has described as unplanned and purely social.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate who looks certain to face Democrat Clinton for president, complained that the system is "rigged," and that "it was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time".

Senator Ted Cruz voiced "serious concerns about the integrity of director Comey's decision," arguing that Mr Comey "has rewritten a clearly worded federal criminal statute".

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a former attorney general in her state who is in a tough re-election race, complained: "The lives of Americans depend on the protection of classified information, and failing to enforce the law in this case sets a dangerous precedent for our national security."

FBI directors are appointed to serve 10-year terms under legislation passed in 1976 following J Edgar Hoover's extraordinary 48-year tenure.

Mr Comey is a Republican first nominated to a senior Justice Department post by George W Bush and tapped to lead the FBI in 2013 by President Barack Obama.

Mr Comey, who served as deputy attorney general in the Bush Justice Department, seemed to anticipate criticism over his decision on Mrs Clinton, offering something of a pre-buttal at the end of his statement onTuesday.

"I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout the investigation," Mr Comey said. "What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done honestly, confidently and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear."


Later, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the email investigation was being closed without any criminal charges - a decision that was largely a formality given Mr Comey's public statement on the case.

She said last week that she intended to accept whatever recommendations and findings were presented by the FBI and by her career prosecutors.

Press Association

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