The FBI is planning to release to interested congressmen a record of its interview with Hillary Clinton and potentially other documents related to the criminal investigation into her use of a private email while she was secretary of state, officials familiar with the decision said.
The release is the latest sign of how the FBI has tried to offer an unusual level of transparency into its handling of the case, which has now been closed after the Justice Department declined to press charges. Typically, when a probe has been finished, documents associated with the investigation are not released to anyone.
Hillary Clinton’s so-called “302” – the bureau’s report of its interview with the former secretary of state – is expected be among the materials turned over to legislators in at least some part, along with possibly the same reports from the bureau’s interviews with her aides and others. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz are among the Republicans who have sought information from the bureau into the probe; Chaffetz asked for the entire “investigative file.” The disclosure to Congress is expected in the coming days, officials said.
FBI Director James Comey last month said that his investigators concluded that neither Clinton nor her aides should be charged in connection with her use of a private email while she was secretary of state. Comey said that while he believed Clinton was “extremely careless” and classified information did improperly traverse her personal server, investigators did not find evidence that she intended to do wrong, and her case did not present some of the aggravating factors that typically convince prosecutors to bring criminal charges.
The announcement was stunning for the level of detail Comey provided on a case that resulted in no criminal allegation of wrongdoing, and some suggested Comey had gone too far. Comey said at the time he felt the American public deserved to know the details of the high-profile investigation that dogged the Democratic nominee’s presidential campaign, and he reiterated that sentiment when he testified for nearly five hours before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“What I decided to do was offer transparency to the American people about the whys of that, because I thought that was very, very important for their confidence in the system of justice,” he said at the time. He promised to provide to Congress whatever materials the law would allow him to turn over.
The unprecedented, high-profile nature of the case – combined with Comey’s interest in convincing the public that the investigation was done thoroughly and without political influence – is likely now shaping the decision to release more materials about it to Congress. Still, it remains unclear precisely what will be turned over, how much of what is turned over will be redacted or removed and whether Congress will be able to make any part of it public. Spokespeople for several congressmen said they did not yet know what they were going to receive, or when they were going to receive it. It is possible the materials could be turned over in a way that they remain classified. The FBI declined to comment for this story.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said while he supported Comey’s decision talk publicly about the closure of the investigation into Clinton’s emails, he had “serious reservations” about turning over more documents. He said he saw “little policy benefit to be derived by Congressional access to the FBI’s witness interview statements,” and making public such documents “would establish or expand a precedent that the Bureau will soon wish it had not set.” Even if the documents are turned over in such a way that Congress is prohibited from releasing it, it is possible they could be still be leaked.
“Witnesses will be less likely to cooperate if they feel private statements to investigators may become political fodder for Congress,” Schiff said. “These interview statements also come very close to pre-decisional work-product, and their release will have an impact on the nature of internal deliberations for years to come.”
Clinton’s top aides have already been deposed in a civil case stemming from her email use – and the transcripts of those conversations made public – though the FBI interviews would likely be more aggressive and more free of restrictions on what could be asked. Comey has said investigators had “no basis to conclude” Clinton herself lied to the FBI – though his account called into question some public statements she had made on her email use, and Republicans have asked that she be investigated for perjury.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky