Republicans officially petitioned the administration Thursday to deny Hillary Clinton access to secret information as Democrats’ presidential nominee, and some GOP lawmakers said if the intelligence community won’t do it, they’ll pass a bill to do it themselves.
The White House has said it won’t deny Mrs. Clinton access, saying it is a tradition for both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees to be briefed so they can effect an orderly transition if they are elected.
But Republicans said Mrs. Clinton’s behavior with her private email server while secretary of state was so egregious that it should trump tradition and cost her the chance to see secret, sensitive material. They cited FBI Director James Comey’s admonition that while Mrs. Clinton’s behavior wasn’t criminal, it was “extremely careless” and would likely result in sanctions that could include loss of security privileges.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper officially asking him not to grant Mrs. Clinton the traditional briefings.
A high-powered group of Senate Republicans went further, asking that Mrs. Clinton’s top aides have their clearances revoked.
“We believe that is clear from Director Comey’s statement and the FBI investigation that the State Department should immediately suspend the clearances of Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and other former State Department employees for security violations if they still maintain them,” the senators wrote, naming the three top Clinton aides who formed her inner circle at the State Department, and whom Mr. Comey signaled were likewise reckless with secret information.
GOP Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and John Cornyn of Texas even introduced legislation they dubbed the Trust Act, which would revoke the clearances by law.
But Mr. Ryan doubted Congress had that power, and it’s unlikely the legislation will see a vote. Congress leaves town at the end of next week for a vacation lasting through Labor Day.
Mrs. Clinton will claim her party’s nomination during that break, meaning unless the administration acts on its own, she’ll start getting the briefings soon.
Two of Mrs. Clinton’s aides, Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Mills, reportedly retain security clearances so they could help Mrs. Clinton go through her records.
Late Thursday, the State Department said it would reopen its investigation into how classified information was handled during Mrs. Clinton’s time in office. Spokesman John Kirby said they would be “as expeditious as possible,” but refused to set a deadline.
That could give the administration the excuse it needs to refuse Republican demands, saying the matter is under investigation and any action would be premature.
Mr. Kirby also said he can’t promise they’ll be able to release the results of the review.
Democrats said they’re comfortable with Mrs. Clinton still having access to government secrets despite the FBI’s damning findings.
“I think that both of the candidates for president of the United States should have access to the security that is appropriate,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
Senate Democrats said they’d vote against the bill to strip clearances if it ever reaches the floor.
“I think it is a terrible idea,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, said anyone running for president should be able to get access to information.
“We want whoever gets elected to have as much background and knowledge as possible,” she said.