GOP Gets Nowhere on Clinton Probe Redactions
By BRANDI BUCHMAN
WASHINGTON (CN) — A congressional hearing into Hillary Clinton’s email activities featured a baffling revelation Monday when Democrats noted that the redacted information over which Republicans are clamoring is being withheld by a different GOP committee.
“It’s a sad goddamn day for this committee,” lamented Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, slamming the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for its persistent “grasping of straws” in the already closed Clinton investigation.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican who chairs the committee, summoned agents from the FBI, Department of Justice and CIA for the hearing Monday under “threat of subpoena” to explain redactions from the files it has produced about the Clinton investigation.
Upon closing that investigation in July, the FBI said Clinton’s email habits had been “extremely careless” but lacked the criminal intent necessary to support charges.
While Republican members of Congress dissatisfied with that explanation have held repeated hearings since then to learn more, Democrats have noted that the hyper-focus on Clinton is at odds with the information the House is receiving. One of the newly released emails, for example, shows that former secretary of state Colin Powell advised Clinton about conducting State Department business on his private email server.
FBI Acting Assistant Director Jason Herring reminded the committee Monday that the FBI had already provided various FD-302 forms, the official summaries of interviews from the investigation.
Other forms not yet released to the oversight committee are forthcoming, Herring added.
When Rep. Trey Gowdy questioned why the FBI had furnished the House Intelligence Committee with documents containing far less redactions, Herring told the South Carolina congressman that the FBI had provided the committee with everything, redactions withstanding, it deemed relevant.
“Relevant according to whom,” Gowdy asked. “With all due respect, you don’t get to decide what we think is relevant.”
Herring then echoed statements made by FBI Director James Comey from July about the lack of evidence that Clinton’s activities merited criminal prosecution.
Along with Neal Higgins, director of congressional affairs for the CIA, Herring repeatedly stressed that the redactions are meant to protect the private information and identities of individuals named in the file, and to protect potential-national security interests.
Still, members of the committee grappled over certain omissions that appear arbitrary, such as openly naming four of the five attorneys retained by Clinton in the file, but redacting the name of the fifth.
Higgins responded that he would be willing to answer in a closed session. After close to two hours of gridlock between the committee and State Department officials, the committee passed a motion 25-0 to hold a closed-hearing vote.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney offered a quick dressing-down of Chaffetz before the vote passed.
“The accusations and the charges and the attacks are almost out of control,” said Maloney, a New York Democrat. “For several weeks the chairman has appeared in these hearings and has made it sound as if the FBI has refused to provide him with these documents.”
Maloney added that “the documents are actually being withheld by the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, not the FBI.”
“I fear it’s just pure plain politics as usual,” she said. “Stirring up a hornet’s nest about documents he can’t see, which are being withheld from him from members of his own party.”
If Chaffetz really wants the information, Maloney said, all he need do is schedule a hearing with the Intelligence Committee.
A Sept. 8 hearing meant for this vein rapidly devolved into what Rep. Elijah Cummings called “frantic pre-election fervor,” where much of the focus centered around the Clinton investigation instead of the sluggish Freedom of Information Act process.
Chaffetz has already scheduled another hearing for Sept. 13 to pick up that matter. Titled “Examining Preservation of State Department Records,” the Sept. 13 session is described on the committee’s calendar as focusing on “a number of disks [the state received] from the FBI containing at least 14,900 emails with the possibility for tens of thousands more.”
Bryan Pagliano, a former senior adviser on information-resource management for Clinton during her time at State Department, will testify. Bill Thornton and Paul Combetta of Platte River Networks will also testify. Combetta was granted immunity last week.