Hill Republicans move to bar Clinton from getting classified info

Story highlights

  • Typically, both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees get classified briefings
  • Democrats accused Republicans of playing election year politics with the issue

Washington (CNN)FBI Director James Comey's scathing criticism of Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information gave new ammunition to congressional Republicans already critical of the Democratic nominee's private email use, and is now prompting an effort to ban her from any future top secret briefings.

House Speaker Paul Ryan argued that Comey's findings justified the move to ban her access to classified information, telling reporters on Wednesday, "I think it's the least we can do, given how she was so reckless in handling classified material and sending classified information on insecure servers."
    But Democrats accused Republicans of playing election year politics with the issue. Since the FBI decided against charging Clinton, Democrats declared her exonerated and said the brouhaha over the emails was "over," in the words of a Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
    Republicans don't agree, and on top of calling Comey to a high-profile hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday and demanding all the details of his probe, they are exploring other options. A conservative member of the House Intelligence Committee told CNN he and others on the panel are considering how they can prevent Clinton or others who have been irresponsible with classified material from having access to it.
    "As a first step, I think anybody who has been deemed to have been excessively careless with national security information should automatically have access to national security information revoked," Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo told CNN. He said Republicans on the committee were looking at legislation and argued there "shouldn't be any discretion, should be a carte blanche rule. These are important American secrets. This isn't about politics. This is about keeping America safe."
    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes didn't go as far as Ryan and Pompeo, telling CNN the panel has some information, but he was asking the FBI to turn over all the classified materials so they could review it before deciding next steps.
    But the California Republican noted that those who have clearances but violate the rules about releasing it are typically denied any further access.
    "So if you mishandle information, the first thing that happens to you is you can no longer handle information until there has been an investigation. And if you consider what they did, you look at what her staff did, from what we can see right now -- we don't have all the information -- if you apply that same logic to someone who is working for the Department of Defense or working for the CIA or working for the House Intelligence Committee, they're gone. They're done. They'll never hold a clearance again."
    A message left with the Clinton campaign was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.
    Typically, both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees get classified briefings from the intelligence community on the top national security issues of the day. Some Democrats have complained that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump cannot be trusted with secret information.
    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seized on the FBI director's statement to suggest that Clinton may have lied to the FBI about her handling of the emails and said the public has a right to know exactly what she told investigators.
    "There is no particular penalty for lying to the public, unless the public gets tired of it, but there is a real penalty for lying to the FBI," the Kentucky Republican said at a news conference. "The question here is Hillary Clinton and her public explanations compared to her private representations to the FBI. We're entitled to know all that. The American people would like to have the answer to that."
    Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest-ranking Senate Republican, called on Comey to release the full details of the FBI's probe.
    "If she wants to begin to recover her shredded reputation, it's important to get the facts out to the American people," Cornyn said.
    Democrats dismissed Republicans' calls as more political posturing.
    "The Republicans are in such desperate shape because of Trump they will seize on anything," Senate Minority Leader Reid told reporters. "It's over. It's time to move on."
    Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, echoed Reid.
    "This is just par for the course," Israel told reporters. "They tried it on Benghazi, they are trying it on this. This is what the Republicans do. The only jobs they create are jobs for people who hand out subpoenas and their investigations of Democrats."