Double down: DoJ reopening Hillary e-mail scandal?
Give Jeff Sessions credit for not looking to lighten his workload. Today he’ll announce a new effort to enforce federal law on marijuana operations, and last month he ordered a review of the controversial Uranium One sale that had connections to both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Does the Attorney General have any time for other priorities?
Why yes, yes he does, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reports:
Justice Department officials are taking a fresh look at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, The Daily Beast has learned.
An ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is familiar with the thinking at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters described it as an effort to gather new details on how Clinton and her aides handled classified material. Officials’ questions include how much classified information was sent over Clinton’s server; who put that information into an unclassified environment, and how; and which investigators knew about these matters and when. The Sessions ally also said officials have questions about immunity agreements that Clinton aides may have made.
A former senior DOJ official familiar with department leadership’s thinking said officials there are acutely aware of demands from President Donald Trump that they look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state—and that they lock up her top aide, Huma Abedin.
Just how much has presidential pressure fed into this decision? Perhaps not as much as congressional pressure, Woodruff reports:
Stephen Boyd, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, appeared to hint at the department’s interest in Clinton’s emails in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte on Nov. 13. In the letter, Boyd wrote that that Sessions “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues” the chairman was concerned about. He also wrote that those prosecutors would “make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened,” and that they would send those recommendations directly to the attorney general and his top deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
Speaking of congressional pressure, Goodlatte’s allies Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan just wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner demanding Sessions’ resignation. The pair of influential House conservatives excoriate Sessions for running a leaky FBI ship that has kept the Russia-collusion story alive through misrepresentations to reporters (via Spencer Ackerman):
But it seems remarkably odd that instead of the FBI answering the critical questions that Congress has repeatedly asked, they instead leak a far-fetched and ill-supported story to the New York Times. If this is the truth, then give us the documentation we’ve asked for to prove it.
The second problem deals with a recurring issue that must be addressed immediately. The alarming number of FBI agents and DOJ officials sharing information with reporters is in clear violation of the investigative standards that Americans expect and should demand. How would New York Times reporters know any of this information when the FBI and DOJ are prohibited from talking about ongoing investigations? How many FBI agents and DOJ officials have illegally discussed aspects of an ongoing investigation with reporters? When will it stop? …
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world. It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations. If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general?
Sadly, it seems the answer is now.
To be fair, the problem seems to have its locus not in the FBI per se but in Mueller’s investigation from which Sessions has recused himself. This might be a complaint better aimed at Rod Rosenstein, who retains jurisdiction over Mueller, or FBI director Christopher Wray rather than Sessions himself. But that’s not really the point here; the point made by Meadows and Jordan is that Sessions hasn’t been tough enough or aggressive enough to end the Russia-collusion story or to go after the Trump administration’s priorities. That’s why they want him gone, although good luck getting anyone else through a 51-49 Senate if the perception of the next AG nominee is that of an anti-Mueller hatchet man.
Sessions has been hinting for a while about the potential to re-open the Hillary Clinton scandals. Boyd raised the possibility in November in a written response to Goodlatte of appointing a second special counsel to consolidate all investigative matters involving Hillary Clinton. Jim Jordan was one of the voices demanding that step, to which Trey Gowdy raised some friendly objection at the time, and Sessions himself said he’d only do so if the facts warranted it. However, Sessions also indicated that the idea was under consideration and that the DoJ was interviewing FBI agents involved in the Hillary investigations to see what might still need pursuing.
This development appears to be part of that process. Perhaps Sessions and his prosecutors have found more information that points to a need for a deeper investigation, or perhaps Sessions just wants to make clear that the issue is still on the table. His putative allies in Congress have made it equally clear that they intend to light a fire under him to either take action or get burned.