Did Hillary Clinton lie to Congress about her secret and unauthorized e-mail system, and can she be prosecuted for it? The answer to the first question is almost certainly yes, but the answer to the second is probably not. Nevertheless, the House Judiciary Committee will hold the FBI’s feet to the fire in a hearing next month to investigate the Democratic nominee for perjury, according to USA Today:
A House panel will probe FBI officials next month over whether Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton perjured herself in testimony to Congress last year about her use of private email servers while she was secretary of state.
Republican committee members plan to bring up the perjury issue at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in September that will focus on oversight of the FBI, according to a Republican committee aide who was not authorized to speak on the record. The exact date and witness list for the hearing have not been set, but FBI Director James Comey will likely testify, the aide said.
Earlier this week, as John noted, Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sent a letter to US Attorney Channing Phillips detailing their argument for a perjury probe. That letter cited four possible grounds for perjury:
- Hillary’s claim that she never transmitted classified information
- Her testimony that her attorneys reviewed each e-mail individually for work content when a screen/search was employed instead
- The fact that several servers were used, and not just the one to which Hillary testified
- The emergence of work-related e-mails that she never provided the State Department
The Hill follows up the USA Today report with its own Capitol Hill sources, which report that the GOP is serious about demanding a perjury probe:
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are planning to press officials from the FBI on allegations that Hillary Clinton committed perjury during a hearing scheduled for next month.
A GOP committee aide confirmed to The Hill that lawmakers intend to question the FBI about the lawmakers’ charges during an oversight hearing planned at some point in September. …
Republicans’ intentions to focus on the allegations during next month’s hearing illustrates that the lawmakers are insistent on pressing the matter, and likely won’t abandon the push until the November elections. The strategy is likely to provoke condemnation from Democrats, who accuse GOP lawmakers of trying to resurrect tired controversies to attack Clinton’s presidential hopes and distract from turbulence faced by Republican nominee Donald Trump[.]
For Clinton, extended focus on the allegations could prove damaging. The former secretary of State has struggled with the image that she is dishonest and untrustworthy.
Well, they can press all they want, but the truth is that Comey and the Department of Justice had a better case under 18 USC 793(f) — and couldn’t drop it fast enough. Chaffetz has been pressing this for weeks to no avail, and a hearing with Oversight or Judiciary is about the last stop he can pull out. Congressional perjury is rarely prosecuted, and even in the normal world it’s not easy to prove. One has to prove a willful falsehood as well as materiality in order to win a conviction for perjury, not just a false statement under oath.
Here are Hillary’s defenses on each of the points above:
- I didn’t know.
- That’s what they told me.
- Not material to the issue of exposure or authorization.
- My lawyers must have missed those. I’ll fire them later today.
Those aren’t political defenses, mind you; we’d pull those apart like warm bread if Hillary used those excuses. But to successfully prosecute for perjury, especially at this level and in Congressional testimony, a prosecutor would have to prove that those defenses were false. In this case, it would take direct evidence and/or witnesses to testify that Hillary was cognizant of the truth prior to that testimony.
But who knows? In this crazy cycle, anything’s possible. And let’s face it — this might be the most effective campaign against Hillary Clinton that we’re likely to see this fall.