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Clinton Probe Ends; House Asks FBI To Explain No Charges Recommendation

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The Justice Department has now closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state without bringing any charges against Clinton or anyone else. This decision is in line with what FBI Director James Comey recommended should happen, but one that many Republicans in Congress totally disagree with. They are aiming questions at FBI Director Comey. He's testifying today before the House Oversight Committee. And with us to talk about that is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So what do Republican lawmakers want to know?

JOHNSON: Republicans want to know more about what they call a disconnect between the tough language the FBI director used and his conclusion that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a criminal case against Hillary Clinton based on these facts. Remember, David, the FBI found earlier this week seven or eight chains of top secret information in her emails, extremely careless handling of secrets by both Clinton and her aides, and possible intrusion into her email server by hostile foreign powers.

GREENE: After she has said that there were no classified emails or emails at the time being sent that they were classified, which seemed to really contradict what she had said all along.

JOHNSON: Yeah. And Republicans on Capitol Hill are using that finding and asking the question of whether politics factored in here because Hillary Clinton's the presumptive Democratic nominee for the White House. Here's Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the Oversight Committee chairman.

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JASON CHAFFETZ: I think there is a legitimate concern that there is a double standard if your name isn't Clinton or you're not part of the powerful elite, that Lady Justice will act differently.

GREENE: Lady Justice, the congressman is saying there. So he is suggesting that the - I mean, Clinton has ties to obviously the Obama administration, which oversees the Justice Department that did this investigation. And that's why Donald Trump has been questioning the integrity of this whole thing.

JOHNSON: Yeah, but point out here - James Comey, the FBI director, is a Republican who gave money to Mitt Romney. And the top Democrat on this committee this morning, Elijah Cummings, says he's convinced the FBI acted out of conviction. He condemned the personal attacks against Comey. And for his part, FBI Director Comey said the investigation was conducted honestly and competently. What mattered was the facts. And Comey says no prosecutor in a hundred years has brought a case for gross negligence without evidence of spying. Here's what he said.

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JAMES COMEY: We don't want to put people in jail unless we prove that they knew they were doing something they shouldn't do.

JOHNSON: Comey says the facts and precedent are really important here in this Clinton case.

GREENE: He said no prosecutor would bring a case of gross negligence without evidence of spying. I mean, that's when generally the Justice Department would actually go after someone?

JOHNSON: David, a vast quantity of classified material, evidence of disloyalty to the U.S., evidence that somebody had lied to the FBI in the course of the investigation - none of that here.

GREENE: OK. You know, several members of Congress want to go beyond questioning Comey. They actually want - they're demanding that the FBI open up its evidence to the public so they can see exactly how they came to this decision. Could that happen?

JOHNSON: Well, Republicans in particular want to see a transcript of the three and a half hour interview Hillary Clinton did with the FBI last Saturday. It's unclear whether that material is going to be released. I think the Justice Department would have some objections to that.

GREENE: OK. We've been speaking to NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks as always, Carrie.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.