The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to hear from former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, after ousted FBI Director James Comey implied she interfered in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On Friday, Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) confirmed that he and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California) sent a letter to Lynch with six questions, seeking her take on Comey’s testimony to the Senate as well as media reports alleging she assured someone in the Clinton campaign the probe will not “go too far.”
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), the chair and ranking member of the Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee, also signed on to the letter.
Comey cited Lynch’s June 2016 meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport as contributing to his decision to hold the controversial press conference on July 5, in which he said the FBI had decided against charging Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
Such a decision would normally be up to the Department of Justice and Lynch as its leader, but Comey testified to the Judiciary Committee on May 3 that “a number things had gone on, some of which I cannot talk about yet, that made me worry that the department leadership could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people’s confidence in the justice system.”
Then, on June 8, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Lynch had personally instructed him not to call the Clinton email probe an investigation, but to refer to it as “a matter,” echoing the language used by the Clinton campaign.
“It gave me a queasy feeling,’’ Comey testified, adding that the direction gave him the “impression” that the DOJ was aligning itself with the Clinton campaign.
Back in 2016, Lynch said her meeting with Clinton never touched on the email investigation, and merely involved social matters such as grandchildren and golfing. She has not publicly commented on Comey’s testimony.
Another matter of interest to the senators was a March 24 article in the Washington Post, which suggested that Comey had acted based on “a Russian intelligence document” that alleged Lynch had “privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter.”
That campaign staffer was identified as Amanda Renteria, and the email was purportedly sent by the Democratic National Committee chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), to Open Society Foundation official Leonard Benardo.
Wasserman Schultz and Bernardo told the Post they do not know each other and have never corresponded. Renteria likewise said she does not know Lynch. The FBI never interviewed Wasserman Schultz, Bernardo or Renteria about the alleged email. Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported the document was a Russian forgery deliberately planted to confuse the FBI.
“To the best of your knowledge, did any of your Justice Department staff or your other associates communicate with Rep. Wasserman Schultz, her staff, her associates, or any other current or former DNC officials about the Clinton email investigation? If so, please describe the communications and provide all records relating to them,” the committee’s letter to Lynch asked.
Notably, the letter does not ask Lynch to comment on Comey’s testimony about treating the email investigation as a “matter.”
President Donald Trump fired Comey on May 9, citing a memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that accused the FBI director of mishandling the Clinton email probe, among other things.
Though Clinton herself accused Comey of costing her the election by reopening the email probe in late October 2016, Democrats have argued that firing him amounted to obstruction of justice, as the FBI was investigating allegations that Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia, which originated from the Clinton camp.