House Republicans unceremoniously ended their investigation into the way the FBI and the Department of Justice handled Hillary Clinton’s email scandal and the bias allegations against President Trump.
The House probe was led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Judiciary Committee and sought to look into allegations that the FBI and the DOJ were biased against Trump during the 2016 presidential election and favored Clinton’s candidacy.
Two Republicans chairing the committees – Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. – said in a letter Friday that the DOJ must appoint a special counsel to investigate the “seemingly disparate treatment” of the investigations into Clinton’s use of private emails and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
The letter came less than a week before the Republicans formally lose control of the House to Democrats, while both Gowdy and Goodlatte are retiring from politics.
The Democrats have long criticized the Republican-led probe as a distraction from Mueller’s Russia investigation, with U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, taunting Republicans for their unceremonious end of the probe.
“This is how the House Republican effort to undermine Mueller by ‘investigating the investigators’ ends. Not with a bang, but with a Friday, buried-in-the-holidays whimper, and one foot out the door,” he wrote in a tweet.
But both Gowdy and Goodlatte reject criticism that their investigation undermined the Mueller probe.
“Contrary to Democrat and media claims, there has been no effort to discredit the work of the special counsel,” they said. “Quite the opposite, whatever product is produced by the special counsel must be trusted by Americans and that requires asking tough but fair questions about investigative techniques both employed and not employed.”
The lawmakers sent the letter to the Justice Department and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying that their investigation “revealed troubling facts which exacerbated our initial questions and concerns.” The House investigation didn’t produce a full final report of the panel's findings.
Republicans say top FBI officials were biased against then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, pointing to Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI official who was ousted from Robert Mueller’s team and later from the agency after his anti-Trump text messages with his colleague and lover Lisa Page were revealed.
The pair exchanged more than 50,000 text messages throughout the 2016 presidential election, with many of them expressing anti-Trump sentiments. In one message, Page asked Strzok if Trump could become president, prompting his reply: “No. No he won't. We'll stop it.”
Goodlatte and Gowdy also refer to the report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog earlier this year that claims Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages raise questions about the agency’s bias, while fired FBI Director James Comey repeatedly broke the protocol.
The lawmakers also stress in the letter that the probe into Clinton’s use of emails was too lenient and cleared her of any wrongdoing without sufficient inquiry into the controversy.
The letter urges Congress to continue the investigation, saying that “while Congress does not have the power to appoint a special counsel, Congress does have the power to continue to investigate,” and notes that “the facts uncovered thus far” merit the continuation of the probe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.