Sources tell Politico that House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) plans to proceed with an investigation into federal record-keeping practices, with the blessing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)… provided the probe proceeds with “caution” when it hits Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Politico’s sources say Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy want to leave the investigation of Clinton’s email to the FBI, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi handles everything related to that situation. The Clinton email scandal began as a result of the House Benghazi Committee’s request for documents the State Department was forced to concede it did not possess, because Clinton was keeping them on a secret private server.
As various other politicians and staffers quoted throughout the article make clear, there are practical concerns about interfering with the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email, or creating the appearance that such interference might have occurred, plus political concerns that a swarm of Republican committees digging into Clinton would fuel her narrative about “vast right-wing conspiracies.”
An investigation of Clinton’s email by Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has already been delayed until after the FBI’s work is done, ostensibly because the discovery of 22 more Top Secret emails in Clinton’s account caused the FBI probe to expand.
Another possible congressional headache for Clinton would be a review of her security clearance.
A report on Thursday from Bloomberg View quotes Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) of the House Intelligence Committee saying, “It’s important, given all the information we now know, that the House of Representatives work alongside the executive branch to determine whether it’s appropriate for Secretary Clinton to continue to hold her security clearances.”
Chaffetz firmly insists that his Oversight Committee has jurisdiction over the Federal Records Act and Freedom of Information Act, both of which bear directly on the Clinton email story.
It is very difficult to imagine how Clinton’s long concealment of her records is not a clear violation of FOIA, especially since FOIA litigants such as Judicial Watch have directly accused the former Secretary of State and her department of “inaccurate” and “incomplete” responses… and the State Department Inspector General agrees with them. If the House Oversight Committee failed to exercise oversight when such violations have clearly occurred, because the subject is political royalty and a presidential election is in progress, it would be scandalous.
“I’m not specifically trying to target the secretary, but when she creates her own private email system, she’s ensnarled herself,” said Chaffetz. “I’m trying to be as cautious as I can. I don’t think we should be any harder on her, but I don’t think we should be any easier on her. It’s bigger and broader than just Hillary Clinton.”
That’s clearly true.
There are many questions to be asked about officials using personal email accounts to evade oversight. Chaffetz said the State Department “seems to be the worst offender” on that score, “but you also have this problem at the Department of Defense. Anybody who would use a nongovernment server to interact on government business is in violation. That’s just been known for a long time, that is the law.”
A probe of irregular federal record-keeping practices and suspicious Freedom of Information Act responses could sweep the entire Obama Administration, from the State Department to the Internal Revenue Service – that magical wonderland of disappearing backups and mysterious hard-drive crashes.
Incidentally, the IRS landed in the news again this week, as a reported hardware failure caused the tax processing systems to crash. On Thursday, Rep. Chaffetz said his “gut reaction” was that the outage “really does smell like a hack”… and repeated his call for the termination of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who Chaffetz said he had “zero confidence” in.
Clearly there’s plenty of work for Oversight to do, and no reason an investigation of record-keeping practices should either ignore Hillary Clinton’s obfuscation games, or dwell at unnecessary length upon them.