The three and a half hour interview Hillary did at FBI headquarters has been requested for review by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Obama’s admin. is ‘urgently debating’ if that should actually happen. Real question is, do they have a right to block the committee from seeing it?
The Obama administration is urgently debating how to respond to congressional demands for the official report on Hillary Clinton’s three-and-a-half-hour interview at FBI headquarters, as some inside and outside government raise concerns about giving lawmakers access to politically sensitive records of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email system.
During congressional testimony last month, FBI Director James Comey promised to respond promptly to lawmakers’ requests for the interview summaries known as “302s” for Clinton and other witnesses, as well as other information gathered in the course of the year-long FBI probe.
“I’ll commit to giving you everything I can possibly give you under the law and to doing it as quickly as possible,” Comey told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 7.
Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Comey a letter the same day requesting the entire “investigative file” on the Clinton email issue. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also asked Comey for all 302 reports related to the case, requesting that they be turned over by the end of last month.
Comey and the FBI are pressing to send at least some of the requested information to the Hill soon, but others in government have stepped in to question such a move, officials tracking the debate said.
Among those involved in the discussions are State Department officials, since many of those interviewed in the FBI probe are current or former State employees.
A State spokeswoman denied her agency has objected to any disclosure of interview transcripts to Congress, but acknowledged that State has asked to be informed about what FBI plans to send to the Hill.
“The State Department has cooperated — and will continue to cooperate — with the FBI every step of the way. We support and understand the FBI’s desire to provide information to Congress. Any suggestion to the contrary is false,” State Department Director of Press Relations Elizabeth Trudeau said in a statement.
“The State Department has asked the FBI that we be kept apprised of information to be provided to Congress that contains sensitive information related to State Department equities and for an opportunity to review it. Such an opportunity for review is in keeping with the standard interagency review process when dealing with another agency’s documents or equities,” Trudeau added. She noted that in relevant cases State checks in with the FBI before sending information to Congress or making it public under the Freedom of Information Act.
Comey has already faced criticism both for the unusual public statement he made about the conclusion of the Clinton email probe and for the decision not to recommend prosecution in the case. Whatever the FBI turns over, or chooses not to turn over, seems certain to trigger another round of political recriminations.
Some former Justice Department officials said the FBI should not be opening its files to members of Congress.
“The Justice Department would be right to be concerned about the effect that disclosure will have in the future on people being candid with investigators,” said former Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ron Weich, now dean at the University of Baltimore Law School. “It’s important that the FBI and Justice Department be able to gather evidence and deliberate about potential culpability without fearing that material will be viewed by the public … Congress needs to stay out of law enforcement. Their job is to pass laws and the executive branch’s job is to carry them out. For me, this is very straightforward.”
Justice Department prosecutors’ statements and thoughts about the Clinton probe could be among the requested FBI materials, since prosecutors were present at the interview with Clinton and asked questions, and court records indicate prosecutors interacted with Justice’s National Security Division as the probe progressed.
“Really, the Hill wants to second-guess the investigation. Congress wants to put on their Sherlock Holmes hats and decide whether Hillary Clinton should’ve been indicted,” Weich added.
At the moment, it’s unclear what role the Justice Department is playing in the disclosure debate.
“I’m sure this is causing a lot of consternation at main Justice,” said Anne Weismann, a former Justice Department official now with the non-profit Campaign for Accountability.