FBI Turns Over Secret Clinton Email Documents To GOP Lawmakers

Aug 16, 2016
Originally published on August 16, 2016 6:37 pm

The FBI has shared secret documents from its investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with members of Congress, fulfilling at least in part a promise the bureau's director made last month.

A spokeswoman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee confirmed the panel had received "a number of documents" from federal investigators Tuesday afternoon.

"Committee staff is currently reviewing the information that is classified SECRET," the spokeswoman said. "There are no further details at this time."

Another source familiar with the release described the materials as interview notes of Clinton and others and emails connected to the personal server Clinton used during her tenure as secretary of state to conduct government business.

Last month, FBI Director James Comey concluded Clinton had been "extremely careless" but said "no reasonable prosecutor" would have pursued a criminal case against Clinton or her close aides. Comey testified before the House Oversight panel July 7, when he told lawmakers Clinton had been truthful with the bureau during a 3 1/2 hour interrogation at FBI headquarters.

In a statement, the FBI said it was providing additional materials to lawmakers "consistent with our commitment to transparency" with congressional overseers about the Clinton investigation. A bureau spokeswoman took care to note the documents were not for public consumption.

"The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence," she added.

The release of fresh information on the criminal investigation remains controversial with many Democrats and Justice Department veterans. Within the Obama administration, lawyers debated whether giving Congress access to materials on a closed case might set a risky precedent.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who once served as a federal prosecutor, said the House Intelligence Committee had also received "witness interview reports" on the Clinton email probe.

"This will neither serve the interests of justice nor aid Congress in its responsibilities and will merely set a precedent for the FBI to turn over closed case files whenever one party in Congress does not like a prosecutorial decision," Schiff said. "This has been done in the name of transparency, but as this precedent chills the cooperation of other witnesses in the future, I suspect the Department of Justice will later come to refer to it by a different name – mistake."

At the State Department Tuesday, spokesman Mark Toner said the department had not yet reached an agreement with the FBI about whether "witness interview summaries" should be shared widely. Toner said authorities at State respect "the FBI's desire to accommodate the requests of its committees of oversight in Congress... and we are going to continue to cooperate just as we have with the FBI in every step of the process."

On the campaign trail, the issue of Clinton's private server is unlikely to fade anytime soon. The FBI recovered tens of thousands of emails in the course of its investigation, which it has handed over to State for release to the conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch has been scouring the material for connections between Clinton's State Department and donors to the Clinton Foundation.

"The American people will now see more of the emails Hillary Clinton tried to hide from them," the group's president, Tom Fitton, said in a written statement.

State Department Correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.

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The FBI has shared secret documents from its investigation of Hillary Clinton with members of Congress. Republican lawmakers had asked for the material after the Justice Department closed a national security investigation of Clinton with no criminal charges. Here to talk about the issue is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Welcome to the studio.


CORNISH: So what exactly did people on Capitol Hill want from federal investigators?

JOHNSON: Last month Republicans on the Hill demanded the FBI director turn over any recordings or transcripts of the three-and-a-half-hour interview that Hillary Clinton had done at FBI headquarters. It turns out that interview was not recorded. There was not a word-for-word transcript. But there are some notes agents took of the session, and the FBI director back then said he tried to share what he could. Today the FBI sent a summary with some interview notes and some of the emails at issue to members of Congress.

CORNISH: Now, have you heard any reaction yet from Republicans?

JOHNSON: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee confirms it has received these documents from the FBI, and the panel says it's reviewing this material but that it's labeled secret at this point. Remember; the FBI director concluded that Hillary Clinton was extremely careless to use a personal server for her email when she was serving as secretary of state, but the director said there's no evidence she lied to federal agents or destroyed any documents so no charges.

CORNISH: Now, is this unusual? I mean how common is it for the Justice Department to share so much information about a case that they decided not to bring?

JOHNSON: In fact, Audie, the FBI decision today to release some of this material at least to members of Congress is extremely controversial. Obama administration lawyers had been going back and forth for days about whether this was a good idea at all, and some veterans of the Justice Department, including Adam Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California and a former prosecutor, say this whole idea sets a terrible precedent. He's worried that it may influence witnesses not to cooperate in further investigations, that it could change the way that prosecutors and FBI agents deliberate about whether to bring charges, and at the very least, it will lead members of Congress to demand information about any number of sensitive investigations that were closed with no charges, from public corruption to national security.

CORNISH: Now, even though the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server is over, there is still a lot of interest in her email messages obviously. And I understand there was another development regarding those emails today.

JOHNSON: Another development. The FBI recovered tens of thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton's personal email server in the course of this investigation. Federal agents have now turned over those materials to the State Department, and the State Department says it's going to prepare them for release to Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch is a conservative nonprofit group that's been scouring the emails that have been released so far for any evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. They're looking for any connections between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. This new pool of emails could be a target-rich environment for them moving forward as the presidential campaign comes to an end.

JOHNSON: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.