GOP-led panel to question officials on FBI probe of Clinton

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans furious with the FBI for not recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server are scheduled to question Obama administration officials at the second in a series of hearings targeting the Democratic presidential nominee.

The session late Monday before the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to focus on portions of the file from the FBI's yearlong probe into whether then-Secretary of State Clinton mishandled classified information that flowed through a private email server located in the basement of her New York home.

The FBI provided the records to Congress last month and warned lawmakers that the documents "contain classified and other sensitive material" and are not to be made public. Republicans have said the documents "did not constitute a complete investigative file" as many of the records had been substantially blacked out or were missing.

The email issue has shadowed Clinton's candidacy, and Republicans have been steadfast in focusing on her use of a private server for government business, with several high-profile hearings leading up to the election.

The hearing comes a week after FBI Director James Comey defended the decision to forgo criminal charges, telling bureau employees in an internal memo that it wasn't a close call.

Republicans have assailed Comey's decision and demanded that the Justice Department open a new investigation into whether Clinton lied during testimony last year before the House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Democrats have countered by accusing GOP lawmakers of using their congressional authority to advance a partisan agenda and undermine Clinton's candidacy for president.

The documents from the FBI's file are being stored in a secure unit known by U.S. intelligence officials as a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF. Access to the SCIF is restricted to the members of the Oversight, Judiciary and Intelligence committees and their staffs.

The chairman of the House Oversight committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said last week that it's an "embarrassment" that access to material has been restricted by the administration.

Appearing before the committee are officials from the congressional and legislative affairs offices at the FBI, Justice and State departments, office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIA, National Security Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight committee's top Democrat, lashed out last week at Chaffetz. In a Sept. 9 letter, Cummings accused the chairman of using the committee's resources and taxpayer dollars "to engage in an astonishing onslaught of political attacks" against Clinton.

Cummings also called the accusations Clinton lied to Congress "ludicrous" and part of a Republican pattern involving Clinton: "accuse, investigate, fail, repeat."

Comey announced in July that he had recommended against criminal charges for Clinton. Although he described her actions as "extremely careless," he said investigators found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

In the memo to FBI staff last week, Comey said the case was "not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn't a prosecutable case," Comey wrote in an internal memo. "The hard part was whether to offer unprecedented transparency about our thinking."

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Follow Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner

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