FBI deputy director to sit for closed interview with House panels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI’S deputy director, Andrew McCabe, will appear for a closed-door interview on Thursday with two key U.S. congressional committees, after Republicans asked him to discuss the bureau’s handling of its Hillary Clinton email probe.

FILE PHOTO - FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe speaks during a news conference announcing the takedown of the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The Justice Department confirmed in a letter on Wednesday to the chairmen of the House of Representatives Judiciary and Oversight committees that McCabe will sit for a transcribed interview, but said McCabe will not be permitted to discuss anything related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It said the interview must be conducted in a classified setting and that the transcript should not be publicly released.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is part of the Justice Department.

The Republican-led House Judiciary and Oversight committees announced in October they were launching fresh probes into a number of long-standing political grievances, including concerns over the FBI’s handling of the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

Republicans have said they want to get to the bottom of why former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump, publicly discussed the Clinton investigation and announced that the bureau would not seek to bring charges.

Comey also publicly revealed, just 11 days before the 2016 presidential election, that he was reopening the matter after the FBI discovered a new batch of Clinton emails. The case was closed shortly after the emails were reviewed, and no new information was uncovered.

Critics say the Republicans’ focus on Clinton is merely a tactic to distract from Mueller’s investigation and whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Since the new Clinton probe was announced, Republicans have also turned up the pressure on Mueller and attacked the FBI’s integrity, after anti-Trump text messages surfaced between two FBI employees who worked on Mueller’s team.

One of the employees, agent Peter Strzok, was reassigned after the texts were discovered. The other, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, completed her temporary 45-day detail assignment with Mueller in mid-July.

Republican have also asked the Justice Department to make Page, who works in the FBI’s general counsel’s office, available for interviews.

Trump has openly attacked the FBI, saying its reputation is in “tatters.”

Russia has denied meddling in the election, and Trump has said there was no collusion.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler