WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 — Hillary Clinton has escaped indictment for her handling of classified documents by the justice department, but she now faces possible perjury charges related to her use of a private email server. House Republican Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia asking for an investigation into whether she lied in testimony to Congress about her use of a private email server.
FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI had completed its investigation and recommended that Clinton not be prosecuted for mishandling classified information. Comey clearly acknowledged that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their use of a private server that he said was less secure than a Gmail account.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the DOJ would accept the recommendation of the FBI and that Clinton would not be charged.
Last October, in testimony to the House Benghazi panel, Clinton said she never sent or received emails marked as classified when she served as secretary of state. She also said, on multiple occasions, including during interviews with media and investigative officials, that she used only one mobile device for emails and turned over all her work-related emails to the State Department.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Clinton did use multiple devices, and investigators found thousands of work-related emails that had not been turned over, despite Clinton’s assurances. Last week Comey told Congress that three of her emails carried classified markings.
The request was not a surprise. Democrats like Rep. Elijah Cummings say that the Republicans are “desperate” to unload additional negative information on Secretary Clinton just weeks before the presidential conventions.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon called the probe a “futile and partisan” effort to keep the email issue alive.
While Congress fights to file perjury charges, House Speaker Paul Ryan has asked James Clapper, director of national intelligence, to deny Clinton access to classified information during the presidential campaign. This would prevent Clinton from getting the classified security briefings presidential nominees receive after the major party conventions. Comey said that her reckless handling of secure emails could result in such sanctions.
Clinton needs to be held accountable for her actions, but this move by Chaffetz risks alienating voters who will view it as vindictive, or object that enough time and money have been spent in pursuing a woman who will never be convicted, regardless of her behavior. While Clinton is widely viewed as untrustworthy and dishonest, there is little public appetite for endless hearings on the subject.
Questions remain about Clinton’s behavior. For instance, if she didn’t use her email server for classified communication—except, as she claims, by accident—how did she receive and transmit classified documents? As secretary of state, were her briefings and comments on classified topics all oral or hard-copy?
If Clinton is charged with perjury, it will have no impact on her bid for the White House; the D.C. attorney would not act expeditiously.
Perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony aren’t unheard of. The Department of Justice investigated and later cleared former IRS official Lois Lerner after a referral from Congress. Former baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was indicted in 2010 on charges that he lied to Congress, but he was acquitted.
According to the Quinnipiac Law Review, six people have been convicted of perjury to Congress since the 1940s; two cases related to the Watergate scandal and another to Iran-Contra.