“You’re not going to charge gross negligence because we’re the prosecutors.”
Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page testified last year that the bureau discussed a “gross negligence” charge against Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified emails, but the Justice Department shut down the idea.
That’s according to hundreds of pages of newly released transcripts of Page’s private testimony to Congress.
Page spoke last July to a joint task force of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees about the FBI’s investigation into whether Clinton broke the law when she sent and received classified information on her unauthorized private email sever as secretary of state.
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In July 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey cleared Clinton of charges in a press conference, though he criticized her conduct as “extremely careless.” An earlier draft of his remarks reportedly instead used the phrase “grossly negligent,” an apparent allusion to the Espionage Act crime, which can carry jail time.
According to Page, the FBI did not “blow over” the possibility that Clinton could be charged with gross negligence. She said that officials in the bureau thought “maybe there’s potential here for this to be a charge” and repeatedly raised the idea with the Justice Department.
However, the Obama-era department – which ultimately decides whether to bring charges – did not like the idea, she said.
“We had multiple conversations with the Justice Department about bringing a gross negligence charge. And that’s, as I said, the advice that we got from the department was that they did not think — that it was constitutionally vague and not sustainable,” Page said.
(WR) I've criticized Trump plenty over the last couple weeks and for most of the election cycle to be honest. But let'…
Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, who led the line of questioning, asked Page to clarify whether Department of Justice prosecutors explicitly refused to bring a gross negligence charge against Clinton.
“When you say advice you got from the department, you’re making it sound like it was the department that told you: ‘You’re not going to charge gross negligence because we’re the prosecutors and we’re telling you we’re not going to,'” he said.
Page responded: “That’s correct.”
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Her testimony was part of a Republican-led congressional investigation of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, which ended last December without uncovering wrongdoing. However, the heads of the mostly-private probe announced that it had “revealed troubling facts which exacerbated our initial questions and concerns.” They called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate further.
Page had an affair with FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was the lead investigator in the Clinton probe. The two exchanged thousands of text messages about the probe, as well as about FBI investigations of Trump’s Russia ties. They often criticized Trump, and Strzok once promised that they would “stop” him from becoming president.
The texts were discovered by an inspector general investigation into the Department of Justice and FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, which was released last June and found no systemic bias. Strzok removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s follow-up investigation of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia or he later obstructed justice as president and fired from the FBI.
Mueller’s probe is expected to conclude shortly.
Meanwhile, in June 2016, days before Comey announced the FBI was not charging Clinton, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix tarmac. Although she refused to recuse herself from the investigation amid criticism of the meeting, Lynch said she would accept Comey’s decision on whether and how to charge Clinton, who was Trump’s Democratic rival for the presidency at the time.
However, according to Page’s testimony, the Justice Department had already deterred the FBI from pursuing its interest in a gross negligence charge against Clinton.
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