Thursday, July 7, 2016

F.B.I. Chief to Explain Recommendation on Hillary Clinton Before Congress

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, will testify before Congress on Thursday to explain his decision to recommend no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, but the appearance will be only the beginning of the tests Republicans plan as they maneuver to capitalize on Mr. Comey’s rebuke of the presumptive Democratic nominee and her handling of classified emails.

Next week, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will be called before the House Judiciary Committee. A Senate panel is demanding F.B.I. answers to pointed questions on the former secretary of state’s private email server. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin even suggested that Mrs. Clinton be barred from classified briefings for the remainder of the presidential campaign.

Those moves could stretch out Mrs. Clinton’s email travails for weeks, if not months, alleviating some of the anguish among many Republicans, who believe their party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump, has failed to seize the remarkable opportunity presented by Mr. Comey’s reproach.

Instead of drawing sharp attention to what Mr. Comey called Mrs. Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of 110 classified emails, and contrasting the F.B.I.’s findings with Mrs. Clinton’s shifting explanations of her use of a private email server, Mr. Trump responded tepidly on Twitter.

“The system is rigged,” he wrote. Referring to a case involving David H. Petraeus, the retired general and C.I.A. director, he added: “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment.”

Veteran Republican campaign operatives said they were stunned that Mr. Comey’s announcement was not met with a battalion of well-credentialed Republican law enforcement and national security officials flooding televisions to raise questions about the inquiry and hammer Mrs. Clinton.

Nor were any talking points sent to leading Republican members of Congress offering guidance on the best lines of attack against Mrs. Clinton after what was a remarkably harsh assessment of her conduct. [...]

These efforts come with substantial risks for Republicans. Mr. Comey is a veteran law enforcement official who served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and is highly regarded in both parties for his integrity and independence.

If he makes a convincing case for his decision on Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it could make Republicans look foolish and bolster efforts by Democrats to put the email issue to rest.

Democrats were quick to accuse the Republicans of refusing to accept the F.B.I.’s recommendation, despite past praise for Mr. Comey. [...]

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Brian Fallon, accused Republicans of flip-flopping. “For weeks, Republicans have said they trusted F.B.I. Director Comey to lead an independent review in Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Mr. Fallon said, “but now they are second-guessing his judgment because his findings do not align with their conspiracy theories.” [...]

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