Politico

By Seung Min Kim
Published: 07/07/16 – 10:49 AM EDT
Updated: 07/07/16 – 05:56 PM EDT

Frustrated by FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton, House Republicans used his Thursday testimony to hammer Clinton’s past defenses of her private email server — their latest bid to undermine the Democratic frontrunner’s trustworthiness.

And a top Republican said he would ask the FBI to probe whether Clinton had previously lied to lawmakers during congressional testimony — a move that could keep the email scandal alive well in to the election, although it was unclear how that referral would play out.

While Comey’s nearly five hours of testimony didn’t provide any new bombshell revelations, it gave Republicans a chance to ask the FBI chief directly about Clinton’s past statements explaining her homebrew email system, including that she never sent or received items marked as classified.

“That is not true,” Comey said in answer to a question from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “There were a small number of portion markings on, I think, three of the documents.”

It’s the kind of statement that will almost surely be played on endless repeat in Republican attack ads, although Democrats were quick to point out that the State Department said some of the emails had been erroneously marked as classified.

With the legal process effectively closed by Comey’s recommendation — and the Justice Department’s subsequent decision — not to press charges, the political parties settled into familiar lines of attack: Republicans held out contradictions between Comey’s statements and Clinton’s as evidence that the former secretary of state is untruthful, while Democrats said the hearings were just the latest political witch hunt aimed at Clinton, particularly in light of Comey’s judgment that she didn’t break the law or lie to FBI investigators.

“Despite the partisan motivations of this hearing, we are glad it took place and that Director Comey had the opportunity to expand upon his remarks from earlier this week,” said Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman. “The Director’s explanations shut the door on any remaining conspiracy theories once and for all. While Republicans may try to keep this issue alive, this hearing proved those efforts will only backfire.”

Still, Comey’s testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was ripe with political fodder for Republicans.

Asked whether Clinton’s earlier testimony that she did not email “any classified material to anyone on my email” and “there is no classified material” was true, Comey responded, “There was classified material,” which would seem to be a direct contradiction of Clinton’s statements.

Meanwhile, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, even told Comey that the FBI would get a referral from Congress “in the next few hours” asking the agency to investigate comments Clinton made under oath during her late October testimony before the Benghazi panel. Following the hearing, Chaffetz said he was working with other lawmakers to formally craft a referral that could come as early as Thursday, although the request could be delayed to Friday.

“I’m totally shocked that the FBI did not look at the congressional record and the testimony of Secretary Clinton,” Chaffetz said. “I didn’t know they need to have a formal letter. But they’re going to get one.”

Republicans also reiterated their belief that the Democratic candidate is held to a different standard, an assertion that Comey rejected. As he opened his testimony, Comey stressed he and FBI investigators conducted the probe “consistent with the highest traditions” of the agency.

And more than two hours into the hearing, Comey furiously rebutted notions that he may have coordinated with the White House and the Clinton campaign when he announced the results of his probe earlier this week — the same day Clinton and President Barack Obama campaigned together in North Carolina.

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