The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday it sent four investigatory letters, including one to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The letters, dated Thursday and signed by the committee’s bipartisan leadership, demand answers and documents related to the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, especially reports that Clinton campaign operatives expressed confidence Lynch would keep that investigation from “going too far.”
The demand comes as the Judiciary Committee investigates the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of ex-FBI Director James Comey, in which the material may take on a new significance.
The New York Times reported this April that not only had Lynch told then-Director Comey in September of 2015 to refer to the investigation of Secretary Clinton and her staff as a “matter,” but that the Justice Department obtained a Russian document in March 2016 showing a “Democratic operative” expressing “confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far.”
The Washington Post followed up in May, calling the document “dubious” but identifying it as a Russian report on an alleged email between Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Leonard Bernardo, the Eurasia Director of leftist billionaire George Soros’s infamous Open Societies Foundations. The Russian report is said to have claimed Wasserman Schultz assured Bernardo that Attorney General Lynch had been in contact with senior Clinton staffer Amanda Renteria and told the campaign the investigation would not go too far.
According to a press release from Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the investigatory letters come “as the Judiciary Committee is examining the circumstances surrounding the removal of James Comey as FBI Director.” Lynch, Renteria, Bernardo, and Open Society Foundations General Counsel Gail Scovell all were sent letters. By July 6, the Judiciary Committee requests copies of the documents and emails in question, and well as answers as to whether they existed in the first place and if the FBI had previously tried to obtain them for the recipients.
The Washington Post claimed that by August of 2016, the FBI was confident the Russian report was a forgery. Wasserman Schultz and Bernardo have denied sending any emails to or even knowing each other. Renteria has similar denials about knowing Attorney General Lynch.
Whatever the doubts about it’s authenticity, however, the document is widely claimed to have played into Comey’s decision to make his public pronouncements about the Clinton email investigation, the putative reason for his firing by President Donald Trump this May. Comey’s concern that the document might be leaked supposedly went far in convincing him he needed to get out of ahead of it and accurately characterize the investigation.
Subsequent events have confirmed certain concerns about Lynch’s conduct during the Clinton email investigation, which first came under general suspicion after she was caught by a local ABC news crew meeting with former President Bill Clinton only weeks before the Democratic National Convention as the investigation was still ongoing.
Comey, during his celebrated post-firing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed that that meeting also played into his decision to make his public remarks on the Clinton investigation. At the same hearing, Comey confirmed that Lynch did, in fact, tell him to refer to the criminal investigation as a “matter,” and that request “concerned and confused” him.
Comey refused to answer a question about the Russian document posed by Grassley in his Judiciary Committee testimony while still FBI Director. In his post-firing testimony, as he confirmed the “call it a matter” request, Comey hinted that there were further actions taken by Lynch with regard to the Clinton investigation “which I cannot talk about yet.”