Lynch defends decision on Clinton email inquiry

Eric Tucker
Associated Press

Washington — Attorney General Loretta Lynch deflected a barrage of Republican questions Tuesday about her decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of private email, saying it “would not be appropriate” in her role as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee voiced frustration, with the panel’s chairman, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, telling Lynch her reticence was “an abdication of your responsibility.” The panel’s Democrats tried to change to subject to issues of community policing and gun control in what seemed a warmup for the fall’s campaign season.

Lynch repeatedly referred the committee to last week’s testimony by FBI Director James Comey, who gave a detailed account of the investigation in a nearly five-hour appearance before another House panel and described the rationale for his advice that no charges be brought. Comey is a lifelong Republican who served as deputy attorney general during George W. Bush’s GOP administration.

“I accepted that recommendation. I saw no reason not to accept it,” Lynch testified.

Republicans demanded to know how Clinton could have avoided prosecution under a “gross negligence” law when Comey had described her and her aides as “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information. They also grilled Lynch over what she’d talked about with former President Bill Clinton in a June 27 tarmac conversation aboard her government plane.

Lynch said the conversation had been entirely social in nature, and that she’d never discussed Clinton’s email practices with either Bill or Hillary Clinton.

She reiterated that her announcement that she would be accepting the FBI’s recommendation was an attempt to remove the specter of political interference from the case, after the chance meeting with Bill Clinton raised a perception problem.

But Republicans suggested that Lynch, a Democratic political appointee, only worsened the perception that Hillary Clinton was getting special treatment and had been wrong to announce ahead of time that she would be accepting the investigative team’s guidance for the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate.

“I think your actions made it worse, I really do,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Dave Trott, R-Birmingtham, also pressed Lynch to explain the Justice Department’s decision.

“In fact, I knew you weren’t going to answer our questions today. . .. I asked my staff to count the number of times today you would say ‘I can’t answer that question’ or refuse to give an appropriate response ... this has happened 74 times so far. So it’s really one of two things ... either you are saying that because you want to avoid the appearance of impropriety, in which case you should have recused yourself, or you are trying to protect Hillary Clinton,” Trott said.