House GOP ends probe into FBI’S 2016 de­ci­sions

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press WASHINGTON

House Repub­li­cans say more in­ves­ti­ga­tion is needed into de­ci­sions made by the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment in 2016 as they brought an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous end to their year­long look at the depart­ment’s han­dling of probes into Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails and Don­ald Trump’s ties to Rus­sia.

In a let­ter re­leased Fri­day evening, less than a week be­fore Repub­li­cans cede the House ma­jor­ity to Democrats, the chair­men of two House com­mit­tees de­scribed what they said was the “seem­ingly dis­parate treat­ment” the two probes re­ceived dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2016 and called on the Jus­tice Depart­ment to ap­point a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther.

House Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Robert Good­latte and Rep. Trey Gowdy, House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form chair­man, both of whom are re­tir­ing next week, sent a let­ter to the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell say­ing they re­viewed thou­sands of doc­u­ments and con­ducted in­ter­views that “re­vealed trou­bling facts which ex­ac­er­bated our ini­tial ques­tions and con­cerns.” Repub­li­cans have said since the elec­tion that they be­lieve Jus­tice of­fi­cials were bi­ased against Pres­i­dent Trump when they started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his ties to Rus­sia and cleared Clin­ton in a sep­a­rate probe into her email use.

The end of the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion, done in a let­ter and with­out a full fi­nal re­port, was a quiet fin­ish to a probe that was con­ducted mostly be­hind closed doors but also in pub­lic as Repub­li­can law­mak­ers of­ten crit­i­cized in­ter­view sub­jects af­ter­ward and sug­gested they were con­spir­ing against Trump.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s most pub­lic day was a 10-hour open hear­ing in July in which for­mer FBI spe­cial agent Peter Str­zok de­fended an­titrump texts he sent to a col­league as he helped lead both in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Str­zok fought with Repub­li­can law­mak­ers in a riv­et­ing spec­ta­cle that fea­tured Str­zok read­ing aloud from his some­times-lewd texts, and Democrats and Repub­li­cans openly yelling at each other.

Good­latte and Gowdy laid out sev­eral con­cerns in the let­ter, many of them echo­ing a re­port is­sued this year by the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­ter­nal watch­dog. That re­port con­cluded that Str­zok’s anti-trump text mes­sages cast a cloud on the agency’s han­dling of the probe and also that fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey re­peat­edly broke from pro­to­col, in­clud­ing when he an­nounced his rec­om­men­da­tion against charg­ing Clin­ton. But un­like the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the re­port also found there was no ev­i­dence that Comey’s or the depart­ment’s fi­nal con­clu­sions were mo­ti­vated by po­lit­i­cal bias to­ward ei­ther can­di­date.

Democrats have blasted the Gop-led con­gres­sional probe, say­ing it was merely meant as a dis­trac­tion from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. New York Rep.

Jerry Nadler, the top Demo­crat on the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee, and Mary­land Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, top Demo­crat on the over­sight panel, are ex­pected to end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when they take power in Jan­uary. Nadler has called it “non­sense.”

Cal­i­for­nia Rep. Adam Schiff, who does not sit on ei­ther panel but is the top Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, tweeted Fri­day evening that the Repub­li­can in­ves­ti­ga­tion is end­ing “not with a bang, but with a Fri­day, buried-in-the­hol­i­days whim­per, and one foot out the door.”

The Repub­li­cans have in­sisted that they were not try­ing to un­der­mine the Mueller probe.

“Con­trary to Demo­crat and me­dia claims, there has been no ef­fort to dis­credit the work of the spe­cial coun­sel,” Good­latte and Gowdy wrote in the let­ter. “Quite the op­po­site, what­ever prod­uct is pro­duced by the spe­cial coun­sel must be trusted by Amer­i­cans and that re­quires ask­ing tough but fair ques­tions about in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques both em­ployed and not em­ployed.”

Repub­li­cans have re­peat­edly asked for a spe­cial coun­sel to look into the 2016 ques­tions, but for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral

Jeff Ses­sions never granted their re­quest.

Hil­lary Clin­ton

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