Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley chastised the FBI for not keeping Congress informed on its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, including that it recovered personal messages she said were deleted.
“The Justice Department is giving us less information than normal when they should be giving us more,” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in a statement Wednesday.
The senator’s comments came in response to a Bloomberg News report, citing a person familiar with the investigation, that the FBI recovered personal and work-related e-mails from a private computer server used by Clinton during her time as secretary of state.
That report Tuesday said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, part of the Justice Department, has been able to salvage at least some of the roughly 30,000 personal e-mails that Clinton said had been deleted from her server.
The bureau’s success raises the possibility that the Democratic presidential candidate’s correspondence eventually could become public. Such disclosures could further inflame controversy over her conducing official business on a private e-mail system.
Grassley’s comments also highlighted an unusual turf fight between the State Department and the FBI over Clinton’s use of the private e-mail system. In December 2014, Clinton’s team turned over paper copies of about 30,000 work-related e-mails to the State Department.
Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, promised in a June 15, 2015, letter to the State Department that he would also hand over electronic copies of those e-mails. That transfer never took place. Instead, Kendall surrendered the thumb drive containing the e-mails to the FBI.
During her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton used a non-government e-mail address -- email@example.com -- to send personal and work correspondence. She said she took such a step as a matter of convenience and between 2009 and 2013 exchanged more than 60,000 such messages, about half of which were of a personal nature.
Because the server and the thumb drive are in the possession of the FBI, the State Department has been put in the unusual position of asking the bureau for electronic copies of its own former secretary. It has been pressured to do so by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is overseeing a public records lawsuit seeking access to Clinton’s correspondence.
Thus far, the FBI has refused to help, even denying the existence of an investigation into how and why classified information ended up on Clinton’s server. So far, dozens of the approximately 8,000 messages released by the State Department on its website have been deemed to contain some classified information. Knowingly mishandling such information is a crime.
“Consistent with long-standing Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation, nor are we in a position to provide additional information at this time,” FBI General Counsel James A. Baker wrote to a State Department lawyer on Sept. 21.
The letter -- and others by State seeking the records from the bureau -- were made public Monday in a Justice Department filing in a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, a non-profit group that describes itself as a conservative educational foundation. Judicial Watch is seeking records related to Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide and confidante.
Grassley said he is particularly concerned that the FBI has refused to provide Congress and other government agencies with updates on its probe.
He said his “committee will be seeking more information about the State Department’s attempts to regain possession of the e-mail records that should have remained at the State Department in the first place.”
“The FBI should also provide clarity on how it will handle the e-mails now that they have been recovered from the server,” Grassley said.
Across the Capitol, Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner, said they hoped the FBI’s success at recovering e-mails from Clinton’s personal server would shed further light on her tenure, particularly the circumstances surrounding a terrorist attack in 2012 that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
“Secretary Clinton has repeatedly claimed she turned over all Benghazi-related e-mails to the Select Committee, but we know that’s not true because a Clinton Foundation employee handed over relevant e-mails she never did,” said a Boehner spokeswoman, Emily Schillinger, in an e-mail. “This report raises the prospect that even more Benghazi-related e-mails that were never turned over may be recovered by the FBI’s investigators.”