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House Panel Turns Search for Trump Documents Into Clinton Probe

Jayapal’s resolution sought more information on Comey firing

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., cried foul after Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee hijacked her bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., cried foul after Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee hijacked her bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee turned a Democratic request for documents related to President Donald Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey on its head, making it a different kind of treasure hunt.

On a 16-13 vote, the panel on Wednesday approved a substitute amendment offered by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida that would ask the Justice Department for documents related to Comey’s handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and other aspects of Comey’s tenure.

Democrats cried foul.

“Incredible: GOP are trying to hijack my bill on the FBI Director’s firing. They’re trying to make this about Hillary Clinton,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said on Twitter.

She later issued a statement on the Republican “shenanigans.”

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on Judiciary, blasted the move. 

“The Majority has shown itself to be in complete lockstep with President Trump.  Rather than talk about a crisis at the Department of Justice, our colleagues would rather re-litigate the 2016 election and question the credibility of a long list of public servants who no longer work for the government,” Conyers said in a statement. 

Jayapal’s resolution would have asked the Justice Department to produce documents on Comey’s dismissal and the recusal by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the government’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election.

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., objected. He argued there are ongoing investigations by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and multiple congressional committees that are sufficient for the time being.

“There’s no standing reason for this committee to become the sixth entity that is using taxpayer dollars to investigate the Trump campaign’s connections, or lack thereof, to the Russian government,” he said.

Jayapal’s resolution of inquiry is part of a Democratic strategy to get Republicans to take controversial committee votes this week and get them on the record about Trump’s business ties and the Russia probe. Jayapal said earlier this week her resolution was intended to force the committee “to consider allegations of obstruction of justice” seriously.

The markup stretched for nearly three hours and got heated at times as lawmakers touched on various aspects of the 2016 election and Clinton’s handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, when she was secretary of State.

Republicans took aim at Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe, as well as what knowledge he may have had of a meeting on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport last June between former President Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Gaetz’s amendment struck the entirety of Jayapal’s resolution and replaced it with a laundry list of inquiries into Comey’s career.

The resolution, as amended, passed on a 15-13 party-line vote.

— Kate Ackley and Kyle Stewart contributed to this report.