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US House panels open probe into Justice Department action during 2016 campaign

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The Republican chairmen of two U.S. House of Representative panels on Tuesday said they are probing various Department of Justice actions during the 2016 presidential campaign, including FBI decisions surrounding the investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said they have “outstanding questions” about why former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey decided to publicly disclose and keep Congress updated on the status of the bureau’s probe into Clinton’s handling of classified information, but never disclosed its probe into President Donald Trump’s campaign associates.

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The probe will also explore the FBI’s decision to “appropriate full decision-making” in declining to prosecute Clinton, rather than leaving it to prosecutors at the Justice Department, they said in a statement.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the probe.

Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department plans to “fully cooperate with this important congressional investigation.”

Comey, who was fired by Trump earlier this year, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The joint investigation by the two panels is now the second congressional inquiry into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation.

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It also comes as Republicans are starting to gear up for midterm elections, after suffering major setbacks in trying to advance legislation to repeal Obamacare.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has also been digging into the matter, as part of a broader probe that also encompasses alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and whether Trump’s campaign associates colluded with the Russians.

In addition, the Justice Department’s inspector general is conducting an inquiry into public statements that Comey made about the Clinton investigation.

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It is highly unusual for the FBI to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

However, Comey discussed the status of the probe in 2016.

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In July of that year, he held a press conference and testified about why the FBI opted not to refer Clinton for prosecution.

Then in October, he told Congress he was reopening the matter because of new emails found on the computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was married to Huma Abedin, the vice chair of Clinton’s campaign.

On Nov. 6, he said a search of Weiner’s computer had produced no new evidence.

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Comey was later fired by President Trump.

A memo drafted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended firing Comey on the basis of his handling of the Clinton matter, but Trump later said he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrea Ricci)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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