House Republicans have questions for FBI director about Clinton decision

Rep Brad Wenstrup (R-OH spoke to WKRC on July 6, 2016. (SBG)

While the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton's email system as secretary of state is now complete, Republicans have made clear that a heated debate over the presumptive Democratic nominee's judgment and her fitness to be president is only beginning.

"I don't think we should confuse the fact that no charges were brought with some kind of exoneration," said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH).

FBI Director James Comey announced Tuesday that the investigation is complete, providing unusually extensive details about the work his agency has done and saying it is possible Clinton violated laws regarding the handling of classified information.

However, Comey concluded that the carelessness of Clinton and her staff did not rise to a level where a "reasonable prosecutor" would pursue a criminal case, so the FBI is not recommending any charges.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) said Wednesday that Comey "made the case very clearly" for a prosecution of Clinton for gross negligence under federal statutes, even if there is no evidence of criminal intent.

"[The statute] doesn't say anything about intent," Wenstrup said. "It just says gross negligence. He called it carelessness. To me, they're the same thing."

Based on the information Comey released, he argued that it is difficult to justify not charging Clinton.

"Maybe in his heart he thought this was better for the country," Wenstrup said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) confirmed Wednesday that he has asked Comey to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday about the Clinton investigation.

"Congress has a job to do oversight and in instances like this it's reasonable to ask questions," Stivers said.

While he did not want to second-guess law enforcement's conclusions, he claimed the investigation revealed Clinton's dishonesty and disregard for the nation's safety and security.

"The pattern here is a pattern of not telling the truth and a pattern of bad judgment, and I think that's really the issue, not whether she was indicted," Stivers said.

"Is she trustworthy?" he asked. "I think that's something we all need to ask ourselves between now and November."

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) said Comey's decision not to recommend charges "sets a bad precedent."

"It appears that we have two different sets of rules... That's something that's very, very frustrating to me and to other people," LaHood said, alleging that political elites like Clinton are treated differently from the general public.

Due to the "disturbing" and "troubling" facts Comey released, LaHood said many questions remain about the investigation that Congress should ask.

"If anybody else in government would have done that... you'd be prosecuted," he said of Clinton's behavior.

Comey should have recommended that the case be heard by an independent grand jury, said Rep. Randy Walker (R-TX).

He accused Clinton of lying about both the email servers and the Benghazi attacks. Comey's statement contradicted many of the claims she has made in defense of using a private server.

"Hillary Clinton has lied to the American public, not once but twice," Walker said.

Democrats have continued to defend Clinton in the wake of Comey's announcement, focusing on her admission that using private email was a mistake and her public apologies for that decision.

"She wishes she hadn't done it," Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said.

Norton disputed GOP claims that the actions Comey described amounted to gross negligence.

"He did not say reckless, he said careless," she said. "There's a real difference, a legal difference."

She also defended Comey against accusations that Clinton received special treatment or that the system was rigged in her favor.

"This is not only a man who is known to be anything but careless, but a man whose integrity is above reproach," Norton said.

According to Norton, the controversy raises bigger questions about what public officials can do to keep their private communication separate from their official business.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said Republicans are looking to create an issue where the FBI has concluded there is none.

"The director has made clear that there's nothing there to go forward with," Deutch said.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) also urged his fellow lawmakers to defer to the judgment of the FBI investigators who have all the facts rather than act on their own opinions.

"We've got to go with what they did," he said.

"In the famous words of Bernie Sanders, enough about Hillary Clinton's emails," said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL).

Despite politicians on both sides largely toeing their party line, Wenstrup argued that Clinton's handling of classified information is an issue that should transcend partisanship.

"I feel that this is an American issue and a national security issue... I would feel the same way whether the person has an R or D after their name."

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