- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two House Republican committee chairmen announced a joint investigation Tuesday into the Justice Department’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and former FBI Director James Comey’s public statements about the closure of the case.

The announcement enraged Democrats, who called the investigation a “massive diversion” they said was meant to distract from the Trump administration and ongoing national security matters involving Russia.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said in a statement that their probe will provide clarity on the decisions the Justice Department made regarding the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.

They intend to learn more about why FBI’s decided to publicly announce the investigation of Mrs. Clinton but not announce the ongoing investigation of campaign associates of then-candidate Donald Trump, why the FBI provided updates to Congress about reopening of the probe after additional emails were found, and why the FBI rather than Justice Department took the lead in making the decision not to criminally charge Mrs. Clinton.

“The Committees will review these decisions and others to better understand the reasoning behind how certain conclusions were drawn,” Mr. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, and Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, said in a joint statement. “Congress has a constitutional duty to preserve the integrity of our justice system by ensuring transparency and accountability of actions taken.”

Mr. Comey bucked Justice Department protocol and announced the closure of the Clinton probe in July 2016, publicly describing why the FBI opted not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton or any of her State Department aides.

The FBI director later testified that he took the unusual step because he believed that a June 2016 airport tarmac meeting between Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, had undermined the Justice Department’s credibility to independently investigate the case.

After his firing, Mr. Comey also disclosed that Ms. Lynch had asked him not to refer to the Clinton case as an “investigation” but rather “a matter.” The change in tone dovetailed with how Mrs. Clinton’s supporters were characterizing the probe at the time.

Stirring up even more controversy, Mr. Comey wrote to Congress two weeks before the Nov. 8, 2016, election to inform lawmakers that the FBI was reopening the Clinton case after agents recovered additional emails as part of a separate case: the sexting charges against former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

A review of the emails was completed just days before the election, and Mr. Comey announced two days before voters went to the polls that Mr. Weiner’s computer turned up no new evidence of wrongdoing on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf.

Top Democratic members of the House oversight and judiciary committees said Republicans efforts to revisit the matters were a distraction and said they would be better served to focus on oversight of the Trump administration’s current actions rather than those of the past administration.

“Ten months into the Trump Administration and House Republicans still have not held a single substantive oversight hearing on clear abuses by the President or his top aides,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat. “The Russian government continues to represent a clear and present threat to the United States and our democratic system, and we are the targets of near-constant cyberattacks by foreign adversaries. Yet House Republicans have taken no concrete steps to secure our next election.”

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