FBI Director James Comey says the bureau won’t be seeking a criminal indictment against former President Bill Clinton for his role in the handling of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“The fact that the FBI has not taken a position on whether there should be an indictment is a matter of longstanding Justice Department policy,” Comey wrote in a letter to Congress late Wednesday.
“This decision reflects our longstanding commitment to the independence and independence of our criminal justice system.”
The Justice Department said Comey’s letter was in response to a request by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The panel was asking Comey about the bureau’s decision not to prosecute former President Clinton.
The letter is not a criminal referral but merely the recommendation of the bureau to the Justice and State Departments.
It was released hours after the House Intelligence Committee released its report on the FBI’s review of Clinton’s emails.
Comey’s decision was widely criticized by Democrats and some Republicans.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a member of the committee, tweeted Wednesday night that Comey’s statement on the matter “puts the onus on the Democratic leadership to fix the problem.”
The FBI director’s letter to lawmakers was sent just after he testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Comey was asked by Rep. Mike Rogers, R of Michigan, about the decision not just to indict Clinton but also to make recommendations on whether to seek a criminal case against Clinton.
“I’m not aware of any investigation into whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” Comey said.
“I’m also not aware that there was a criminal investigation into collusion.”
Comey said he did not know the details of that probe, but noted that he had “no information indicating that the investigation would have been compromised in any way.”
In the letter, Comey also said that while he would have preferred not to use the term criminal prosecution, he would not “expose the FBI to a criminal prosecution of my own.”
“I would not make such a commitment to that effect if I had no intention of using that phrase in the future,” Comey added.
“In this instance, the FBI and Justice Department agreed that we could not afford to do so.
I am confident that any future decision will be based on the merits of the case and will reflect the judgment of those charged with prosecuting it.”
In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, called Comey’s decision “unfortunate” and said it “put our democracy at risk.”
He said the FBI needs to be transparent with Congress and the public about what its investigation is all about, including the fact that there are no criminal charges being brought against the former president.
“As long as the Justice department continues to deny that there is any criminal wrongdoing on the part of the former President, the American people will continue to have no idea about the Justice Dept.’s decision to drop any and all criminal charges against him,” Schiff said.