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Politics & Government

House Panel Grills Attorney General Loretta Lynch Over Clinton Email Case

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Washington, the debate continues over Hillary Clinton's email practices while she was Secretary of State. Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified today before a House committee. She defended the Justice Department's decision not to prosecute Clinton. NPR Justice Department correspondent Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The Justice Department ended the probe of Hillary Clinton's private email server with no indictments, but that doesn't mean the issue has been put to rest. Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio says the Attorney General is part of the problem.

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JIM JORDAN: Your actions contributed to this belief that the system is rigged.

JOHNSON: GOP lawmakers criticized Loretta Lynch's meeting with Bill Clinton at an Arizona airport last month and a decision by her Justice Department a short while later not to charge his wife with mishandling classified information. Lynch insisted the meeting with Bill Clinton was social, and she said the investigation of his wife operated the way every other case does.

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LORETTA LYNCH: As Attorney General, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the underlying facts of the investigation or the legal basis for the team's recommendation. But I can tell you that I am extremely proud of the tremendous work of the dedicated prosecutors and agents on this matter.

JOHNSON: Republican Darrell Issa of California pressed Lynch about political interference.

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DARRELL ISSA: Was there at least one person who was politically appointed that was on that team?

LYNCH: The investigative team was composed of career prosecutors and seasoned agents.

JOHNSON: Lynch asserted she had no talks with the Clintons about the probe or about staying on as Attorney General if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee labored to change the subject.

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JERROLD NADLER: Black Lives Matter is not a hashtag. It is an imperative.

JOHNSON: Jerrold Nadler of New York wanted to talk about black men who died after encounters with police.

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NADLER: There is an epidemic of gun violence, and how has the majority in Congress responded - with emergency hearings about Hillary Clinton's and Lois Lerner's emails. We have held, of course, zero hearings on gun violence.

JOHNSON: One Democrat asked the Attorney General about an antitrust dispute. Another urged her civil rights unit to investigate the actions of police in Baton Rouge, La., and Luis Gutierrez of Chicago said his city is still working to heal after brutal incidents by law enforcement there.

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LUIS GUTIERREZ: I don't want to talk about the elections. I want to talk about how it is I take brave men and women in Chicago that serve in our police department and the millions of American citizens and have them work together. Can we do that?

JOHNSON: For her part, Loretta Lynch pledged to keep working on police and community issues.

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LYNCH: The Department of Justice will continue to do everything in our power to build the bonds of trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities that we serve. That work has never been more difficult nor more important.

JOHNSON: The attorney general said the federal government will support law enforcement with equipment and training. She said Justice recently announced all of its federal agents will undergo sessions to recognize their own implicit bias. But Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said Lynch was evading the central issue for Republicans - Hillary Clinton.

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BOB GOODLATTE: And your refusal to answer questions regarding one of the most important investigations of someone who seeks to serve in the highest office in this land is an abdication of your responsibility.

JOHNSON: This week he asked Justice to open a new investigation into possible perjury by Clinton before Congress. Prosecutors had no comment. Carrie Johnson, NPR news, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.