On Wednesday, a joint letter from Republican committee chairmen in the House and Senate to Attorney General Loretta Lynch questioned the U.S. Department of Justice’s handling of evidence related to Hillary Clinton‘s private email server. The letter specifically questioned the terms of the investigation that the FBI agreed to regarding Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff, and Samuelson was a Clinton aide who reportedly worked under Mills and attorney David Kendall in screening Clinton’s emails before turning them over to the State Department.
The GOP leaders focused on letters from Beth Wilkinson, an attorney who represented Mills and Samuelson, to the FBI, with terms for the investigation. The House and Senate Republicans alleged that DOJ lawyers actually worked on the letters with Wilkinson before officially sending them to the DOJ. They called into question restrictions that the terms placed on the FBI’s investigation, including how the FBI “inexplicably agreed to destroy” Mills’ and Samuelson’s computers when they were done, even though they were still under Congressional subpoena.
The main focus of the Congressional letter, signed by the Republican heads of several committees, was the limited scope of which emails were subject to the FBI’s investigation, and the destruction of everything else. As part of Wilkinson’s terms, the only emails covered were those that were part of Platte River Network’s archives of emails sent to or from four of Clinton’s email addresses from June 1, 2014 to February 1, 2015. The Congressional leaders noted that IT specialist Paul Combetta admitted to deleting Clinton emails on March 31, 2015. If there were any emails between Mills and Combetta about this, or even emails to or from Clinton about this after February 1, 2015, they would not be in the scope of the investigation. Not only that, if such communications existed, Congress can no longer view them, since the FBI destroyed the machines when they were done.
The House and Senate Republicans accused the DOJ of giving “special treatment” to Mills and Samuelson. The letters Wilkinson sent on their behalf were only made available to “Members of certain committees and one or two staff,” and no one was allowed to take notes on them. “These onerous restrictions are not consistent with the high degree of transparency you and Director Comey promised to Congress,” the House and Senate leaders wrote.
The joint letter from Congress made a number of demands for information from Attorney General Loretta Lynch, including why the FBI agreed to destroy the computers, what legal authority did they have to do so, and if they destroyed any evidence from the laptops. It also pointed out that the FBI has claimed, as per the Wilkinson letters, that they did not assume “custody, control, or ownership of the laptops,” for Freedom of Information Act purposes. Lynch is being asked to explain how this works, given that the FBI did possess the laptops during the investigation, and whether such language has been used in past investigations.
The joint letter was signed by House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz, House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte, Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes.
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