House Republicans: ‘Lynch has no intention of answering any of our questions’
WASHINGTON (CNN) — House Republicans grilled Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday for what they saw as stonewalling over questions regarding the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server.
Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner expressed his frustration with not getting more answers.
“You have a burden, I think, to convince the American public that you don’t have a double standard,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “You’re not meeting that burden.”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, released a statement after the hearing started, slamming Lynch’s answers.
“It’s clear that, a little over an hour into today’s hearing, Attorney General Lynch has no intention of answering any of our questions regarding the Department’s decision not to charge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, even the most basic questions about the legal elements the government is obligated to prove in a criminal prosecution,” Goodlatte said in the statement.
He opened his hearing’s remarks saying that despite FBI Director James Comey’s testimony last week explaining his decision not to recommend charges, “the FBI’s conclusion leaves many more questions than answers.”
“The American people also expect government officials to abide by the law just like everyone else and to be reprimanded when they break the law, just like everyone else,” Goodlatte said.
Lynch defended her department as well as her actions, saying she was accepting the recommendation of the FBI.
“Their unanimous recommendation was that the matter be resolved in the way in which we announced, and I accepted that recommendation,” Lynch said.
One of the more tense moments occurred between Rep. Darrell Issa and the attorney general over whether there were any political appointees involved in the decision not to charge Clinton and how the California Republican should respond to constituents who were charged for actions similar to Clinton’s.
“How do I reconcile the fact that they know that their friends and colleagues have been prosecuted or fired for doing less in the past,” he asked.
“Congressman, I can’t speak to any cases you may be referring to involving friends and colleagues,” Lynch replied with the two talking over one another. “Every case is different.”
“Every individual whether they are a former Secretary or anyone else has to be reviewed with the facts and the law there,” she said.
Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot called the recommendation Lynch accepted “disheartening” and “unfortunate.”
“I think the thing that I find so disheartening, so unfortunate about FBI Director Comey’s decision not to recommend criminal charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week is for a lot of Americans it looked like we’re seeing a double standard for unequal treatment under the law,” he said.
Democrats used their speaking time to highlight other issues related to the Justice Department including police relations and immigration. California Rep. Zoe Lofgren chose to take the time to highlight immigration issues, accusing Republicans of being politically motivated.
“I think, to some extent, we’re beating a dead horse here for political reasons,” the Democrat said. “And I think it’s important to use your time here for other things. There are a lot of things that need attention that we’re not giving attention to.”
Other topics the hearing discussed included tension between African-Americans and law enforcement that shook the nation last week as well as terrorist attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino, California.
“As we grapple with the aftermath of these events, the Department of Justice will continue to do everything in our power to build bonds of trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities we serve. That work has never been more difficult — or more important,” Lynch said.
Republican lawmakers continued to give Lynch heat for privately meeting with former President Bill Clinton days before Comey chose not to recommend that the former Secretary be charged. Some critics of the director’s recommendation believe that that meeting along with Lynch’s long-standing relationship with the Clintons influenced the outcome of the investigation.
Issa further floated the idea Tuesday by inquiring about who was involved in the investigation.
“You keep mentioning this professional team of career professionals — were there any political appointees on that team,” he asked.
“With respect to the team, typically we don’t go into the composition of it,” Lynch replied. “It was led by our national security division and everyone on the team was a career professional.”
CNN’s Rachel Chason contributed to this report.