FBI calls Clinton email probe ‘different’ as key witness ditches House hearing

© Jason Reed
As lawmakers continued to probe Hillary Clinton’s private email use, the aide who set up the service declined to appear before the House committee. FBI officials had to be given a summons to produce documents on the investigation.

On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee summoned contractors and former State Department officials who set up and maintained Clinton’s email servers and mobile devices. However, the key Clinton aide, Bryan Pagliano, did not show up for the hearing, pleading Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

The afternoon before, the committee dressed down FBI’s Acting Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs Jason Herring, who was at pains to explain his absence from a major meeting last week and the bureau’s reluctance to hand over unredacted investigation documents.

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) took issue with Herring’s absence from last Wednesday’s classified briefing with the committee. The FBI Assistant Director said he would prefer to explain it in a closed session.

“A lot of it has to do with what the discussion was going to be,” Herring said, “I think there was some confusion, at least on my part, about what the expectations were.”

“Was this case different?” asked Rep. Jordan.

“I think this case was different in a lot of ways,” Herring replied.

“Here’s a problem Mr. Hering,” Jones retorted. “It’s not supposed to be different. Everyone’s supposed to be treated equally under the law."

The Bureau had released two documents – a 47-page summary of the investigation and an 11-page summary of the interview with Clinton, known as the '302' – the Friday before Labor Day holiday weekend. Director James Comey defended the timing of the release in a letter sent to the FBI staff.

“I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us,” Comey said in the letter, circulated last Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was not satisfied with the two redacted documents, demanding full access to the investigation from Herring.

“We decide what's relevant – not the Department of Justice, not the FBI,” Chaffetz said during Monday’s hearing. “It's unclear to me how the FBI can prevent a member of Congress from seeing what we're already allowed to see by law, yet here they have done so.”

“That’s the way a banana republic acts, not the way the United States of America acts,” Chaffetz added.
“I don’t expect to have to issue a subpoena to see unclassified information.”

He did just that, however, instructing an aide to deliver a subpoena to Herring on the spot.

"We want all the 302s....and you are hereby served," Chaffetz said.

Democrats on the committee accused the Republican majority of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

“This is a miscarriage of justice," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts). “This is a sad day in the history of this committee. This is a sad, god-damned day."

Noting that the committee had already held an emergency hearing on Thursday and planned another one on Tuesday, ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) said “the only emergency that the election is less than 2 months away.”

“I guess this is what happens when you try to schedule an attack against Hillary Clinton for every day of the week," Cummings added.