Congressional Republicans relied on eight separate committees to investigate the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, each of which failed to substantiate far-right conspiracy theories, while also failing to dig up dirt to be used against Hillary Clinton. One of the key questions of the day is simple: will the number of committees investigating Clinton’s email protocols match the Benghazi totals?
At this point, it’s a distinct possibility.
We talked earlier about House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who said exactly one month ago today that House Republicans would likely accept the outcome of the FBI’s investigation into the email controversy because GOP lawmaker “believe in” FBI Director James Comey. All of this, it turns out, has been thrown out the window.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday said FBI Director James Comey plans to testify before Congress Thursday to explain his recommendation not to press criminal charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state. […]House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) said Wednesday that Mr. Comey would appear before the committee Thursday morning as an invited witness. The FBI hadn’t confirmed this yet.
The House Judiciary Committee is also reportedly planning to hold hearings. So is the House Intelligence Committee. The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s GOP chairman is reportedly “itching” to dig in. So is the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
If each of these committees follow through, that’ll be five separate panels on Capitol Hill taking a closer look into email server protocols that the FBI has already scrutinized.
To be sure, that’s not quite as big a number as the eight committees that probed Benghazi, but let’s keep in mind, more Republican-led panels may yet jump in. Comey’s announcement was, after all, just yesterday.
What’s more, we’re not just talking about a series of overwrought committee hearings. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), ostensibly one of the smart ones, is nearly hysterical in his outrage. Not only is the Republican leader throwing around conspiracy theories, as Bloomberg Politics reported, Ryan even has a new policy effort in mind.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called for denying Hillary Clinton access to classified information during the presidential campaign, citing the FBI director’s findings that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling sensitive communications. […]Ryan told reporters Wednesday that he wants Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to bar Clinton from receiving the customary briefings on national security issues provided to presidential candidates.“After the convention, you get the full, deep classified information,” Ryan said, noting Comey had said that short of prosecution some sort of administrative action might be in order. “I think the DNI, Clapper, should deny Hillary Clinton access to classified information during this campaign given how she so recklessly handled classified information.”
If Clapper balks, there’s also chatter this morning that House Republicans may take up legislation to restrict Clinton’s access to sensitive information.
Which leads to a few follow-up questions for the Speaker:
1. Wouldn’t it be in the nation’s best interest for the likely next president to receive intelligence briefings ahead of the election? Or is a partisan temper tantrum more important?
2. Are you familiar with the phrase “Bill of Attainder”? Do you understand that if Congress passes a law blocking Clinton’s access to classified information, the law might very well be unconstitutional?
3. Why exactly do you have so much additional confidence in Donald Trump’s ability to handle classified briefings responsibly?
I don’t expect the Wisconsin congressman to actually answer these questions, but if I hear anything, I’ll let readers know.
In case it’s not obvious, it’s probably also worth noting that congressional Republicans have actual work they’re supposed to be doing. Email protocols are obviously their sole focus right now – never before has Congress obsessed this much about an IT issue – but lawmakers could be working on, say, a federal response to the Zika virus threat.
But policy work will have to wait – probably until at least September, thanks to the exceedingly long summer break Congress is giving itself. Republicans have found a new partisan toy and they have no intention of putting it away anytime soon.