Attorney General Loretta Lynch is testifying before Congress amid a roiling national debate over police violence and as House Republicans seek a Justice Department perjury investigation of Hillary Clinton.
In a prepared opening statement for Tuesday’s hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia criticized Lynch over her “troubling” meeting with Bill Clinton while an investigation of his wife was under way.
That investigation, into Clinton’s handling of classified emails, ended last week with FBI Director James Comey recommending against criminal charges for Clinton. The decision outraged House Republicans, and on Monday Goodlatte and another committee chairman formally asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress, a fresh challenge to the Democratic presidential candidate just months before the November election.
“This has now become an issue for Congress in that it appears Secretary Clinton testified falsely when appearing under oath before the Select Committee on Benghazi,” Goodlatte said in his prepared statement Tuesday, referring to Clinton’s assertions that she did not send emails marked classified at the time from her private server.
“Frankly, the FBI’s conclusion leaves many more questions than answers. We hope, Madam Attorney General, to get answers to these questions today.”
Lynch did not address the issue of Clinton’s emails in her prepared opening statement, instead touching on law enforcement and policing issues including last week’s sniper shooting of five police officers in Dallas by a suspect who said he wanted to kill white police officers. That followed police killings of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot near St. Paul, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling, who was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“As we gather here this morning, that sense of safety has been shaken by the series of devastating events that rocked our nation last week,” Lynch said in prepared remarks.
Lynch, who was sworn in as attorney general on the same day as racially tinged riots occurred in Baltimore, has repeatedly said that one of her top priorities in office is to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.
The hearing marks Lynch’s first appearance before Congress since the Justice Department closed without charges the federal investigation into Clinton’s private email server. She made the announcement a day after Comey recommended against prosecution, saying there was no evidence that Clinton or her aides intended to violate laws governing classified actions.
The Clinton email investigation was spawned by the House probe into the attacks in Benghazi, Libya of 2012 that killed four Americans while Clinton was serving as secretary of State.
Lynch caused a stir by meeting with Bill Clinton last month aboard her plane in Phoenix. She said it was an unscheduled encounter and the two did not discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but Lynch also expressed regret and acknowledged the meeting had “cast a shadow” on the public perception of the Justice Department’s independence. Lynch then said that she would accept whatever recommendation the FBI and her prosecutors presented on Clinton.