The Hillary Clinton email controversy is never going to end. At least that’s what Republicans are trying to ensure, and they’re now calling for a new FBI investigation of Clinton on the question of whether she lied to Congress about her emails.
On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that his bureau had found no basis to bring a criminal case against Clinton for her handling of emails when she was secretary of state. Immediately, Republicans and conservatives howled, with GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump claiming this was all part of some nefarious cover-up. Outraged House Republicans demanded hearings on the FBI decision, and on Thursday morning Comey appeared on Capitol Hill before the House oversight committee.
Comey began his testimony by explaining again that there was no cause to prosecute Clinton and reiterated that there was no precedent for bringing such a case. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman, chose to focus on another matter. He asked Comey if the FBI had investigated whether the statements Clinton made under oath about her email when she appeared before the Benghazi committee last year had been accurate. Comey said the bureau had not examined those statements and explained that there had been no “referral” from Congress on that matter.
“Do you need a referral from Congress to investigate her statements under oath?” Chaffetz asked.
“Sure do,” Comey replied.
“You’ll have one, ” Chaffetz said, with a laugh. “You’ll have one in the next few hours.”
Here was the GOP ploy: request yet another FBI investigation of Clinton, with this one focused on whether she testified accurately to Congress about the emails.
Moments later, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chaired the fizzled-out Benghazi committee, indicated what the House GOPers want the FBI to probe. Citing Clinton’s testimony to his committee, he asked Comey a series of questions. Did Clinton email classified information? Yes, Comey said. Did she use just one device? No, Comey said, there were multiple devices. Did Clinton return all work-related emails to the State Department? No, Comey said, the bureau found others. Did her lawyers read through every single email they reviewed before returning the material to the State Department? No, Comey said, they had not.
The implication was clear: Several Clinton statements to the committee about the emails were not accurate. Gowdy maintained that any false statements would be a sign of “intent and consciousness of guilt.” So not only might Clinton be guilty of lying to Congress, Gowdy suggested, but these statements could be the basis for concluding that she should have been prosecuted for mishandling the emails.
At the hearing, Comey was firm in defending the FBI recommendation in the email case. Yet the GOPers demonstrated they have another goal: to kick-start a new FBI inquiry. Then they—and Trump—can spend the next few months declaring that Clinton remains under FBI investigation.