- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2016

Two top House Republicans say Hillary Clinton appears to have lied to Congress, laying out a case Monday that they said could sustain perjury charges against the Democratic presidential nominee for failing to give an honest accounting of her use of a secret email server while she was secretary of state.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah said evidence the FBI collected during its investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email practices contradicts what she herself told Congress in testimony last year.

The two chairmen have officially referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution — though Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and her top aides have gone to great lengths this year to protect Mrs. Clinton from legal jeopardy, including matters involving her email and questions about the mixing of Clinton Foundation and State Department business.

Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Chaffetz said FBI Director James B. Comey’s depiction of what he called Mrs. Clinton’s “extremely careless” email practices pokes holes in a number of statements Mrs. Clinton gave to Congress during her 2015 testimony to the House committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack.

Mrs. Clinton testified at that time that she never sent or received information marked classified, but Mr. Comey told Congress last month that three such documents were in fact marked at the time she handled them via email.

Mrs. Clinton also testified that when she belatedly agreed to comply with open-records laws and return her work-related emails to the government, she had her attorneys go “through every single email.” But Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys used only search terms and subject lines to decide which emails to return and did not read each one.

SEE ALSO: State Department preparing to turn over Hillary Clinton emails recovered in FBI investigation

The FBI director said his investigators discovered thousands of work-related messages Mrs. Clinton failed to turn over to the State Department, raising questions about yet another statement in Mrs. Clinton’s testimony last year. Mr. Comey also said Mrs. Clinton had multiple servers during her time using the secret account.

“Although there may be other aspects of Secretary Clinton’s sworn testimony that are at odds with the FBI’s findings, her testimony in those four areas bears specific scrutiny in light of the facts and evidence FBI Director James Comey described,” the chairmen said in a letter Monday referring the case to U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, the chief federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Phillips’ office referred questions to the Justice Department, which didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

Protecting Mrs. Clinton

The Justice Department has repeatedly protected Mrs. Clinton during her presidential campaign, refusing to pursue charges that she mishandled classified information and fighting an effort to force her to testify under oath in a court case about her emails.

The department also reportedly refused an FBI recommendation to investigate the Clinton Foundation — a decision that is also coming under scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

“At this point, the American people and Congress are owed answers,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been investigating the tangled relationships between Mrs. Clinton and her aides at the State Department, and the Clinton Foundation and other Clinton-related organizations.

Members of Congress were expecting to get a look Monday at the FBI’s notes of its interview with Mrs. Clinton during the email investigation.

The notes could provide more insight into whether Mrs. Clinton was truthful in her 2015 testimony, though one key Democrat said releasing the documents set a bad precedent for the FBI.

“Witnesses will be less likely to cooperate if they feel private statements to investigators may become political fodder for Congress,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “These interview statements also come very close to pre-decisional work-product, and their release will have an impact on the nature of internal deliberations for years to come.”

He also predicted that someone would leak the notes to the press.

Another potential obstacle emerged Monday when the State Department said it wants to review the FBI’s notes and other materials on Mrs. Clinton’s emails before they are handed to Congress, The Associated Press reported.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that the department has asked the FBI to allow it to see any documents provided to Congress that contain sensitive information.

“The State Department respects the FBI’s desire to accommodate the request of its committees of oversight in Congress, just as we do with our oversight committees,” Ms. Trudeau said. “We have cooperated, and we will continue to cooperate with the FBI every step of the way.”

After a year of investigation, Mr. Comey recommended against pursuing criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton.

The director said dozens of email chains involving Mrs. Clinton contained information that was classified at the time and that three of the messages had the classified marking — a “(C)” designation next to paragraphs indicating they contained secret information.

However, the FBI chief said that while anyone at that level of government should have known what those markings were, Mrs. Clinton was not “sophisticated” enough to understand what she was handling.

Mr. Comey said he recommended against prosecuting Mrs. Clinton because even though she was “negligent,” he couldn’t show she was aware of the risks she was taking with national security.

Former President Bill Clinton last week said Mr. Comey was making too big of a deal out of the classified markings in his wife’s case.

“They saw two little notes with a ‘C’ on it — this is the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard — that were about telephone calls that she needed to make,” he said. “The State Department typically puts a little ‘C’ on it to discourage people from discussing it in public in the event the secretary of state, whoever it is, doesn’t make a telephone call. Does that sound threatening to the national security to you?”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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