On the eve of the release of the Mueller report, the Republican chairmen of three Senate committees are asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to release “highly classified information” the FBI declined to examine as part of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
A May 2016 FBI memo, the Republicans point out, states the information was “necessary” to complete the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information on her private email server, the Daily Caller reported.
However, the FBI declined to review the material before closing the Clinton probe in 2016, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in a report released last year.
The letter to Barr requesting the information was signed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairmen of the Senate Judiciary, Finance and Homeland Security Committees, respectively.
The senators write that Horowitz’s finding “raises significant issues associated with the FBI’s failure to review certain highly classified information in support of its Midyear investigation.”
They note that the Justice Department has claimed it could not brief the Senate Judiciary Committee on the meeting because doing so would interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
“Now that the Special Counsel’s investigation has concluded, we are unaware of any legitimate basis upon which the Department can refuse to answer the Judiciary Committee’s inquiries,” the senators wrote.
The FBI’s counter-intelligence probe of Clinton was concluded in July 2016 with an unusual public announcement by then-FBI Director James Comey. He said that while Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information, “no reasonable prosecutor” would try a case against the then-Democratic presidential candidate.
But the inspector general said that toward the end of the Clinton probe, the FBI “considered obtaining permission from the Department to review certain classified materials that may have included information potentially relevant to the Midyear investigation.”
It was former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok who changed the language describing Clinton’s actions in a memo exonerating her from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.” Under the Espionage Act, “grossly negligent” handling of classified information is a criminal violation.
Strzok later was part of Mueller’s investigative team but was dismissed when text messages were revealed showing his intent to prevent Trump’s election and to undermine him in case he were elected.
A redacted version of the Mueller report is scheduled to be released Thursday morning, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Barr already has issued a letter to Congress summarizing Mueller’s main finding that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The attorney general said Mueller did not make a judgment about the allegation of obstruction of justice by the president. But Barr said the report does not present sufficient evidence to conclude Trump obstructed justice.
Democrats, worried that Barr ordered redactions to protect the president, want the attorney general to turn over to Congress an unredacted copy along with the underlying investigative files.
Republicans argue Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also are engaged in making the redactions to protect grand jury material and national security.