The FBI has not yet announced any criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, but some Republicans have accused the bureau of a cover-up, and some Democratic lawmakers have accused it of trying to protect Clinton from the political fallout of her handling of the email scandal.
Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday asked FBI Director James Comey to explain why the bureau has not opened a criminal investigation, as well as whether the FBI is reviewing the matter.
The FBI’s refusal to open a criminal probe into Hillary’s emails has fueled Republican ire and has drawn the ire of Democratic lawmakers who say the FBI should be investigating the former secretary of State’s actions.
Law enforcement experts, however, say that if Clinton is found guilty of a crime, there would be a strong likelihood that the FBI would seek to charge her with a federal felony, not a misdemeanor.
Democrats have called for the FBI to investigate Clinton’s use of the private email system while she served as secretary of the State, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding hearings next week.
In July, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that he would not recommend that charges be brought against Clinton for mishandling classified information, and FBI Director Robert Mueller said on the same day that he was “not prepared to make that call at this point.”
However, on Thursday, Comey said he had received the “full support” of his team to recommend no charges against Clinton.
“I believe there are no grounds to pursue charges against Secretary Clinton at this time,” Comey told the committee.
“There are a lot of things we know we need to do.
And if we can get to those things and that is what I think we can do, then we’ll proceed as though there was no crime.”
Asked if Comey’s decision meant he had decided to not pursue a case against Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told the Fox News network: “No, no, no.”
“That’s not the way the Justice Department works,” he added.
Republicans have argued that the Clinton investigation is being conducted in secret, and Gowdy has said that FBI Director Mueller has been reluctant to publicly share information about the investigation.
The Justice Department declined to comment.FBI Director Mueller said in July that the bureau was working to find out why Comey didn’t make an announcement about the Clinton probe sooner.
“We are not a criminal investigative agency,” Mueller told reporters at the time.
“It’s a civil investigation, and so that means the law requires the Justice and the FBI not to discuss it.”
However the investigation is unfolding, Comey is facing pressure from Democrats and Republicans to open the investigation publicly.
The committee sent a letter to Comey on Thursday asking for any documents related to the Clinton case, and asked him to respond to their questions by Monday.
The Democrats on the panel, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, have called on the FBI director to come clean about the probe.
“While we do not expect the director to make public a final decision regarding whether to open or close an investigation, we do want him to tell the committee why he decided not to publicly announce the investigation’s existence,” the letter said.
Rep. Trey Grayson (D-Fla.), the top Republican on the subcommittee, also said on Thursday that Comey must answer questions about why the FBI did not open a case sooner.
In a statement on Friday, the FBI declined to answer the letter, saying it was reviewing the information provided.
“The FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations and we do provide public officials and groups with our findings at that time,” it said.