Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he doesn’t “see much of a difference” between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Obama administration predecessors on holding the Department of Justice accountable for its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Chaffetz, the former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that it’s “absolutely pathetic” that the DOJ and FBI have been slow-walking lawmakers’ subpoenas for documents.
Most recently, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) subpoenaed 1.2 million DOJ documents regarding the investigation into the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server and address to conduct official government business as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
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“The FBI put out a statement saying they’re looking at this request. A request? It’s a subpoena,” Chaffetz said. “I mean, if you got on the receiving end of a subpoena, do you think that’s just a request or do you have to comply?”
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday he is “committed to ensuring that the bureau is being transparent and responsive to legitimate congressional requests. Up until today, we have dedicated 27 FBI staff to review the records that are potentially responsive to Chairman Goodlatte’s requests. The actual number of documents responsive to this request is likely in the thousands.
“Regardless, I agree that the current pace of production is too slow. Accordingly, I am doubling the number of assigned FBI staff, for a total of 54, to cover two shifts per day from 8 a.m. to midnight to expedite completion of this project.”
But Chaffetz noted that he issued a subpoena in September 2016 and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued one in August 2017.
“Bob Goodlatte has now issued a subpoena in 2018, and they’re just getting geared up to add a few new people? That’s just ridiculous,” Chaffetz said.
Goodlatte told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Monday that his committee wants “to find out why it was that the FBI was operating the way it was in 2016 and on into 2017, with extreme bias.”
“We have seen evidence of that with the actions of a number of people in the department, and particularly with the text messages of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok,” Goodlatte said. “And this contrast between how they handled the Clinton investigation and how they handled the Trump-Russia investigation is truly shocking.”
Chaffetz said that the DOJ and FBI are “absolutely obstructionists” when it comes to transparency and accountability.
“And I’m sorry, but Attorney General Sessions, I don’t see much of a difference between him and [former attorney generals] Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder. I mean, what’s the difference?” Chaffetz said. “When you issue a subpoena from Congress, it’s just a suggestion? It’s just a request? There’s no — no urgency that you have to hit it by the deadline?”
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Chaffetz also blasted members of Congress who “ought to be calling those people up, they ought to be putting them in front of Congress, raising their hand and having the attorney general testify as to why they’re not doing it.”
“They have to hold them in contempt. Until they get serious about it, the Department of Justice is just going to blow it off. They have for years and they’re doing it now,” Chaffetz said. “This is a closed case. There is no excuse for not producing these documents.”
Although Chaffetz praised the majority of DOJ and FBI employees for their hard work and dedication, he warned that there are still “a few bad apples at the top of the food chain that are not serving the American people well.”
“And when they hide these documents and refuse to have the exposure, then you can’t wait out the bad apples. And it just begs the question that they’re hiding something,” Chaffetz said. “The bureaucracy, the ‘deep state,’ they will act better if they know there’s going to be some oversight and some people looking over their shoulders sometime.”