Senate defies Trump on call to investigate Hillary Clinton

Thursday, July 27, 2017

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Jewel Samad)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's relentless calls for more investigations into Hillary Clinton, her emails and the Democratic National Committee are largely being ignored in Congress, where Republicans spent years and millions of dollars on Clinton probes that turned up nothing.

And Senate Republicans say Trump is wrong in prodding his attorney general via Twitter to revive an inquiry into the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who lost the election to Trump.

"It harkens back to the notion of a banana republic," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of what he called Trump's "inappropriate" calls for investigations into Clinton. "It's what dictators do, they look to punish their enemies."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Senate Intelligence Committee member, noted that Clinton's missing emails as secretary of state were investigated by the FBI. As a result, he said, there appears to be no need to reopen the case.

"As for me, I prefer to look to the future, not the past," Rubio said of Trump's tweets agitating for Clinton investigations. "It's time to move on."

Congressional investigators are not completely dismissing allegations about the Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised questions Wednesday about Democrats and Republicans in a hearing on foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Grassley said he has asked the Department of Justice about Democratic National Committee officials allegedly working with Ukraine's government to "undermine" Trump's presidential campaign.

"The law needs to be enforced consistently and evenhandedly," Grassley said. "Otherwise, it won't be taken seriously."

Trump's complaints already have been investigated.

Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 was investigated for months by the FBI.

That investigation appeared to end last summer when former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired in May, called Clinton's handling of her email careless, but said "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." Comey then wrote a letter to Congress on Oct. 28, days before the November election, that the case had been reopened, followed quickly by an announcement that the case was, again, considered closed.

Trump has needled Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly, accusing him of being "weak" by not investigating Clinton. Democrats have suggested Trump is trying to humiliate Sessions to the point of resignation, a move that would ease the way for Trump to get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

Trump's pique with Sessions, one of his earliest and staunchest supporters, stems from the attorney general's decision in March to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after revelations he had met during the campaign with the Russian ambassador.

It's questionable as to whether Sessions would be able to order an investigation into Clinton even if he were inclined to do so: In his letter of recusal, Sessions noted he was sidelining himself from "any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., repeated his circumspect stance, a position he's had all year, saying Wednesday that his committee is "investigating anything out of either campaign that could be collusion."

But there is little indication to believe that Clinton's campaign is a focus. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who said he understood Trump's frustration and criticized Democrats for "going after (Trump) on everything, while Clinton actually did something," suggested it was time for Trump to stop berating Sessions for not launching an investigation into his vanquished opponent.

"I don't believe he should do that, and I don't believe he should say that," Hatch said of Trump's repeated requests.

Democrats said the concept of a president browbeating his attorney general to take action against a political rival is entirely misguided.

"I didn't support him for the job, but Sessions is doing his job," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "It's one more example of this president's disrespect for the rule of law."

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