House GOP launches probes into Clinton, Obama controversies – Politico
House Republicans launched a pair of investigations into Obama-era controversies on Tuesday in a move sure to stoke partisan tensions in Congress, appearing to make good on calls from President Donald Trump to scrutinize both his White House predecessor and his former election rival, Hillary Clinton.
GOP-led committees will separately probe the FBI’s handling of last year’s Clinton email probe and an unrelated uranium deal struck during her tenure at the State Department, lawmakers announced. The simultaneous investigations, apparently blessed by Republican House leaders, come as Trump has sought to downplay congressional inquiries and a separate DOJ probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
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Congressional Republicans have signaled that their Russia probes, which include questions of whether any Trump associates assisted Moscow, could be winding down soon, leading to speculation about what conclusions they will draw. At the same time, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have begun speaking to White House officials, bringing the investigation closer to the president.
Trump has demanded lawmakers switch directions and scrutinize the actions of President Barack Obama’s administration and of Clinton. In a move sure to inflame partisan tensions, the new probes were kicked off by three GOP lawmakers who have become bogeymen to Hill Democrats: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House intelligence committee; Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House oversight committee; and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House judiciary committee.
Democrats on Tuesday declared the new Republican probes to be partisan fishing expeditions. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said they were “designed to distract attention and pursue the president’s preferred goal — attacking Clinton and Obama.”
“This may be good politics, but it is a disservice to the far more important cause of investigating Russian interference in our democracy and protecting our elections in 2018 and beyond from outside influence,” Schiff said in a statement.
Nunes and Gowdy said Tuesday they were teaming up to look at a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to a Kremlin-linked firm. The sale was approved by the Obama administration — including the Clinton-led State Department, though there’s no evidence she was personally involved — and recent reports alleged the FBI was at the time investigating a bribery plot by Russian officials seeking a foothold in the American energy landscape.
Trump latched onto the developments, calling them “the real Russia story.” He has also derided the investigations into Russian election meddling as a “hoax” cooked up by Democrats.
“Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!” Trump tweeted Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already launched its own investigation.
Some Clinton critics have pointed out that one party to the uranium deal was a Clinton Foundation and Democratic donor, though many of those donations came before Clinton was selected as Obama’s secretary of state.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the intelligence committee, will be the committee’s point-man on the probe. He said he a sent a letter of concern in 2010 about the uranium deal but had no knowledge there may have been an ongoing FBI investigation at the time.
Nunes, who initially led the intelligence committee’s Russia investigation, stepped aside from the probe in April as his relationship with committee Democrats began to deteriorate after he made an unscheduled visit to the White House to brief Trump on the initial findings of the investigation. He said Tuesday he had not heard from the White House about the uranium probe, which he said was not partisan.
“We’re not going to jump to any conclusions but we’re going to try to get the facts,” Nunes said.
The second probe will look at the FBI’s decision-making in its investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information and her use of a private email server to do government work. Republicans have accused former FBI Director Jim Comey of letting Clinton off too easy when he announced months before the 2016 election that he was not recommending she face charges, even though he said she mishandled classified information.
“Our justice system is represented by a blind-folded woman holding a set of scales. Those scales do not tip to the right or the left; they do not recognize wealth, power, or social status,” Goodlatte and Gowdy, the two leaders of that probe, said in a statement. “No entity or individual is exempt from oversight.”
The Republicans also are frequent Democratic targets. Gowdy earned their scorn during the last Congress as the leader of the House’s Benghazi committee, where he investigated Clinton’s response to the 2012 attack in Libya and sometimes clashed with the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Goodlatte has irked Democrats for refusing to probe the president’s decision to fire Comey. The White House initially said that decision was due to Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, but Trump later said he did it out of frustration with the then-FBI chief’s Russia investigation. The firing led to the appointment of Mueller to run an independent investigation into Trump’s ties to Moscow.
“Ten months into the Trump Administration and House Republicans still have not held a single substantive oversight hearing on clear abuses by the President or his top aides,” said Cummings and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich). “That amounts to ten months of abdication of responsibility.”