Top GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol are vowing that their investigations of Hillary Clinton will continue even if she wins the White House in November.
Indeed, the FBI wrapped up its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server this summer, but congressional Republicans say they’re just getting started.
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) wants answers on the deletion of Clinton emails he says may constitute “destruction of evidence” — and he’s willing to use subpoenas to get them. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is working on a bill to pull the security clearance of anyone who broke rules governing confidential information, a jab aimed squarely at Clinton and her top aides.
And there’s percolating interest among congressional Republicans in sniffing out any connections between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department — a potential new Clinton probe inspired by reports showing foundation donors securing access to Clinton as secretary of state. CNN reported in August that FBI officials wanted to probe the Foundation connection for conflicts of interest but was slapped down by Justice officials.
Republicans have also signaled interest in diving deeper into questions of whether Clinton or her aides perjured themselves on the email matter.
“Hillary Clinton created this problem; I’m trying to untie this big tangled web,” Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in an interview this week. “I’d be derelict in my chairmanship if I didn’t pursue this with all the vigor I have.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking GOP senator, offered a similar message on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, [FBI] Director [James] Comey’s announcement back in July wasn’t the end of the story… because last month even more e-mails came to light that revealed the line blurred between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department under Secretary Clinton,” Cornyn said. “It is clear that major Clinton Foundation donors enjoyed great access to Secretary Clinton while she was serving as our nation’s premier diplomat. … I hope, soon, that we all get some answers.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon in a statement said “this is exactly what Americans hate about Washington: before the election has even happened, House Republicans are already plotting what political attacks they might wage against a potential Clinton administration.”
“Republicans are offering nothing more than pure, partisan gridlock, and this is why we must work hard to elect as many Democrats as possible this November,” he added.
If Clinton prevails against Donald Trump, the investigations could strain her relations with Capitol Hill from the outset of her presidency, at possibly the most fertile time for getting her agenda through Congress. But there was no disagreement among Republicans interviewed for this story: If questions remain unanswered, the probes will continue into next year, whether she’s in the Oval Office or not.
That view is shared by top leaders. A source familiar with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s thinking said he considers Congress’ oversight role — including potentially overseeing a President Hillary Clinton — to be an important priority.
“Rigorous oversight of the executive branch is important no matter who is in the White House,” the source said. “[Ryan is] not known for partisan witch hunts, but his members will conduct robust oversight if needed.”
Chaffetz has been itching to sink his teeth into various Clinton controversies for more than year, and House insiders say he will take the lead for their chamber. GOP leaders had halted all Oversight Clinton probes during the FBI investigation to give law enforcement space to work. But now that it’s wrapped up, Chaffetz is plowing ahead.
Chaffetz said one of his top priorities over the next few weeks is to locate any missing Clinton emails and find out why some were deleted.
In a Tuesday letter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Chaffetz asked the Justice Department to review whether Platte River Networks, the IT company that housed Clinton’s server after she left State, destroyed evidence and obstructed justice. The letter points to a section in the newly released FBI files on the Clinton investigation that said an unnamed Platte River IT employee deleted a Clinton email archive a few days after talking to Clinton’s lawyers. The New York Times reported Thursday night that the person, Paul Combetta, was given immunity by the FBI.
Chaffetz also noted that the FBI Clinton file said a different Platte River Networks employee refused to answer the FBI’s questions about a call with Clinton’s lawyers just days after news of her email broke. The employee claimed attorney-client privilege, and Chaffetz wants to know why.
“These emails are held for newly two years and then within hours of a [Clinton’s lawyers] Cheryl Mills-David Kendall call with Platt River, they’re destroyed?” Chaffetz asked. “This is why we need to investigate… [so] we better understand how that happened and make sure it never ever happens again.”
Platte River did not return a request for comment.
Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) panel earlier this year sent lists of questions to Platte River as well as two additional tech companies that maintained the back-up of Clinton’s email. The tech firms refused to answer most of their questions, citing non-disclosure agreements with their client.
While subpoenas trump such agreements and allow companies to answer questions, the Senate didn’t force the matter due to political sensitivity among senators about employing such a potent tactic to secure testimony. Chaffetz, however, says he has no such reservation.
“If I have to issue a subpoena I’m happy to do it,” he said.
In fact, he’s already threatening to. In recent days, Chaffetz asked officials from State, FBI, the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to come to Capitol Hill for a private briefing on why some Clinton emails and parts of the FBI report are being redacted when he believes they shouldn’t. He also says his panel has noticed “inconsistencies” in what the agencies withholds from Congress.
All refused his invitation. So, he scheduled a public hearing, and threatened the “s” word, subpoena.
“If they won’t come in voluntarily, I told them we’ll have this out in a public hearing,” he said. “And I told them I’ll issue them all subpoenas” if they refuse.
Across the Capitol, Johnson and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are also keeping close tabs on the drip of newly revealed emails.
Johnson’s panel is waiting for State to provide to Congress the work-related emails that the FBI discovered during its Clinton investigation that she never handed over to State. Grassley’s investigators, meanwhile, have been seeking for more than a year additional information on Teneo, a corporate consulting firm originally staffed and foundedby Bill Clinton staffers and a top Hillary Clinton state appointee while he was still working at State.
“Sen. Grassley has always followed inquiries through to their logical end, until he feels he’s received the answers he needs to be able to satisfy the questions he posed on the public’s behalf,” said spokeswoman Jill Gerber. “He performs oversight regardless of which party holds the White House, just as he initiates oversight inquiries irrespective of politics.”
Nunes, the House intelligence panel head, in the coming weeks or months will be introducing a bill to “tighten up security clearance rules and regulations, including whatever penalties should be exerted to people who do not properly classify that information,” as one GOP congressional aide familiar with the proposal described it to POLITICO.
The aide said the bill was crafted with Clinton and her staffers’ security blunder in mind. A handful of Clinton aides sent her classified and even top secret information on her unsecured server, and while the FBI didn’t recommend charges against Clinton or any of her staffers, Comey said they were “extremely careless.”
“Several of her aides should certainly be barred from obtaining security clearances in the future, if they were to be part of a Hillary Clinton administration,” the congressional aide said.
The House could also try to make the case that Clinton and her staff perjured themselves in public or private testimony. Chaffetz and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) requested that Justice open a perjury investigation over statements Clinton made during her Benghazi testimony that Comey later contradicted.