Republicans question Lynch on Comey, tarmac meeting

House lawmakers on Wednesday questioned former Obama administration Attorney General ...

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 5:44 AM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 5:44 AM

House lawmakers on Wednesday questioned former Obama administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch over her tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey's decision to leave her out of his announcement on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, in what is likely to be the final interview of the Republican-led investigation into the FBI.

Lynch testified behind closed doors for nearly seven hours Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, where Republicans are probing the FBI's actions during 2016 in the Clinton and Russia FBI probes.

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Leaving the interview, Democrats said there was nothing new to learn from Lynch, while Republicans pointed to her differences with Comey in the Clinton investigation and said there were still questions about her meeting with the former President in 2016.

"You might note she had not recused herself from the Hillary Clinton case, and yet we're finding some very interesting things about his feeling that he didn't have to inform her before, during or after he made the decision not to prosecute," said Rep. Darrell Issa, a retiring California Republican. "There will be details in the transcript, but that's an area I think of considerable interest just to get a feel for just how insubordinate Comey was during the Obama administration leading to his firing by President Trump."

Democrats said the Lynch interview was just one more attempt by Republicans to detract from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation before they lose power in the next Congress. The incoming chairmen of the two committees have made clear they won't continue the FBI probe once they're in control.

"I think basically our Republican friends want to rehash issues that have already been resolved and investigated by the inspector general, and I think one of the greatest presents we could give the American people is by spending their dollars in a way that's effective and efficient," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, who will chair the Oversight Committee next year, as he left the Lynch interview.

Lynch's interview was scheduled the same week that Comey concluded his testimony before the committees. Lynch and Comey are likely the last two witnesses that Republicans will call in their investigation, although some conservatives have pressed for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to still appear.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican and the retiring Oversight Committee chairmen, suggested a Rosenstein interview wasn't in the cards.

"If he is coming, I don't know about it," Gowdy said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, expressed frustration that Rosenstein wouldn't have to testify.

"I think he should have been here a long time ago," Jordan told reporters. "It doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Gowdy would not say whether Republicans planned to issue any report or summary of their yearlong investigation, but he told reporters he hoped the transcripts of their interviews would be made public.Comey's transcript was already released as part of a deal he struck with the committee for his closed-door testimony.

Lawmakers said Lynch's interview was less contentious than Comey, and she and her attorneys weren't raising objections to questions like Comey did with certain topics.

Issa said there were still questions over what happened with her tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, suggesting that when Lynch met with him in 2016, Clinton could have helped the career of the nation's top law enforcement officer.

"I think the one thing that everyone understands is Loretta Lynch is meeting with a very powerful and wealthy man, the former President, somebody controlling a half-billion dollar global fund who also, in fact, could've helped during her career considering her career was about to end," Issa said. "She was leaving office and was going to be looking for contacts. So the influence that somebody like President Clinton had was undeniable."

Jordan downplayed the significance of the interview.

"I don't think we learned a whole lot new today," he said after the meeting. ""I just didn't feel like she knew a whole lot about the stuff I asked about, the Russia stuff."

Democrats criticized Republicans for focusing on the meeting that was already examined by the Justice Department inspector general.

"Here we are at the end of 2018 and there are still some people extremely focused on what happened on the tarmac," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat.

"They're rehashing things that have been gone over in public many times before," said Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "(Lynch) said that there was no other time when she was alone with President Clinton and other people weren't listening to what she was saying."

As they left the interview, several Democrats said they were pleased that this would be the committees' last interview on the FBI's actions in 2016, and they were eager to move in a different direction next year.

"This is the last gasp of the wild goose chase known as the investigation into the Hillary Clinton investigation," said Rep. Raja Krishamoorthi of Illinois.

This story has been updated with additional developments throughout Wednesday.

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