Hillary Clinton questioned by FBI over email scandal
By David J Lynch and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Loretta Lynch: 'I will be accepting their recommendations and their plan for going forward'
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, has been questioned by theFederal Bureau of Investigation about the email scandal that has dogged her presidential campaign and provided ammunition to Donald Trump, her Republican opponent for the White House.
The Clinton campaign said the former secretary of state, who came under intense criticism for using a personal email account and private server located in her New York home, spoke to investigators on Saturday morning, in a sign that the year-long investigation is coming to a close. The questioning was conducted at FBI headquarters in Washington and lasted over three hours, according to a Clinton aide.
“Secretary Clinton gave a voluntary interview this morning about her email arrangements while she was secretary,” said Nick Merrill, a campaign spokesman. “She is pleased to have had the opportunity to assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a conclusion. Out of respect for the investigative process, she will not comment further on her interview.”
The development came on the heels of the statement by attorney-general Loretta Lynch who said on Friday that she would accept whatever recommendation she receives from the FBI and career prosecutors at the end of a criminal probe of Mrs Clinton’s use of the private email server.
“This case will be resolved by the team that’s been working on it from the beginning,” Ms Lynch said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I will be accepting their recommendations and their plan for going forward.”
Ms Lynch was criticised by Republicans, and some Democrats, for what she said was an impromptu private meeting with former President Bill Clinton. The two spoke for about half an hour on June 27 while their aeroplanes were parked at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The attorney-general described the conversation as a social call — the former president appointed her in 1999 to the post of US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Ms Lynch said she congratulated her visitor on the recent birth of a grandchild and denied that the two had discussed the investigation of his wife’s email practices. But she acknowledged that the incident had “cast a shadow” over the investigation.
“My meeting with him raises questions and concerns. Believe me, I completely get that,” she said, adding: “I certainly wouldn’t do it again.”
Ms Lynch said she already had decided to endorse whatever recommendation comes to her from FBI director James Comey and career Department of Justice prosecutors before the furore over her private meeting with the former president.
Raj De, a former senior White House and DoJ attorney and now a partner at law firm Mayer Brown, said the decision was “a prudent step, in line with common practice, to quell any justified or unjustified concern about even the appearance of impartiality in such a high profile matter”.
Ms Lynch’s announcement, however, is unlikely to mollify Republicans who have doubted the Obama administration’s impartiality in the investigation of the Democratic presidential candidate. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, blasted her meeting with the former president as “terrible” and “really a sneak”.
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who has been among Ms Lynch’s fiercest critics, renewed his call for the attorney-general to appoint an independent counsel to pursue the matter. “This incident does nothing to instil confidence in the American people that her department can fully and fairly conduct this investigation,” he said.
Before becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official last year, Ms Lynch had been a prosecutor in New York. White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday deflected questions about whether it was appropriate for the attorney-general to have met the former president. He told reporters the investigation would be “free of political interference”.
An FBI recommendation could arrive at the DoJ within weeks, threatening to upend an election campaign already notable for its twists and turns. This month both parties are scheduled to hold their quadrennial nominating conventions.
The email issue has been a chronic headache for Mrs Clinton: 60 per cent of respondents in a Fox News poll last month said she was lying about the matter while only 27 per cent thought her truthful.