Republicans aren’t letting up on their criticism of Hillary Clinton following the FBI’s recommendation that she shouldn’t face criminal charges over her handling of classified emails. Instead, they’re expanding their criticism to include the FBI itself.
The agency is supposed to be insulated from partisanship, with directors appointed to serve 10-year terms under legislation passed in 1976 following J. Edgar Hoover’s extraordinary 48-year tenure. The current director, James Comey, is a Republican first nominated to a senior Justice Department post by George W. Bush, and tapped to lead the FBI in 2013 by President Barack Obama.
But Comey’s declaration that “no charges are appropriate” against Clinton drew a deluge of GOP criticism Tuesday, even though Comey prefaced it by calling Clinton “extremely careless” in her handling of highly sensitive information, and suggested she sent emails with information that was classified at the time — contrary to her previous claims. Even high-ranking Republicans more typically inclined to align themselves with law enforcement agencies got in on the election-year complaints.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said Comey’s recommendation to the Justice Department that Clinton should not face prosecution “defies explanation,” adding that: “declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”
Ryan also promised House hearings on the FBI investigation. And he said the government’s director of national intelligence should block the presumed Democratic presidential nominee’s access to classified information.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia criticized Comey’s conclusions and released a lengthy letter to the director demanding answers to a series of questions about how he reached them.
Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio charged that “the investigation by the FBI is steeped in political bias,” and called for appointment of an independent counsel in the case.
Another House Republican, Paul Gosar of Arizona, tweeted a cartoon of a Monopoly “Get out of jail free” card showing a winged Clinton flying out of a cage labeled “FBI.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas voiced “serious concerns about the integrity of Director Comey’s decision,” arguing that Comey “has rewritten a clearly worded federal criminal statute.”
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, like Cruz a failed GOP presidential contender, declared: “This is an outrage, and the rule of law has been shattered. … The FBI should be better than this.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a former attorney general in her state who is in a tough re-election race, complained that “The lives of Americans depend on the protection of classified information, and failing to enforce the law in this case sets a dangerous precedent for our national security.”
And Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential candidate who looks certain to face Democrat Clinton for president, complained that the system is “rigged,” and that “it was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time.”
Yet Comey’s approach also drew scattered complaints from Democrats who objected to his lengthy criticism of Clinton if he wasn’t going to recommend an indictment. “Once again, Clinton gets worse treatment than anyone else would. I can’t remember an FBI press conference like that when charges declined,” Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman and Democratic operative and congressional aide, said over Twitter.
Comey, who served as deputy attorney general in the Bush Justice Department, seemed to anticipate his critics, offering something of a pre-buttal at the end of his statement Tuesday.
“I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout the investigation,” Comey said. “What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done honestly, confidently and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.”