The FBI will have up and running within two years a database that tracks instances of police use of deadly force, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday at a congressional hearing that reflected the sustained political interest in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
The database is intended to capture how often police officers kill citizens in the line of duty and to correct a record-keeping gap that Comey said has resulted in uninformed conversations, based on anecdotes and not facts, about use of force. Demands for more complete records have grown in the past two years amid a series of high-profile deaths at the hands of police officers.
“Everybody gets why it matters,” Comey said of the planned database at an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
Much of the hearing, though, focused on the FBI’s handling of the now-closed investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Republican lawmakers demanded to know why the Justice Department had granted immunity to multiple individuals interviewed during the investigation, including Clinton’s former chief of staff, and questioned whether someone in a less-powerful position than Clinton would have received the same treatment.
The FBI recommended against prosecution in July and the Justice Department closed the matter. Comey again rejected the idea of a double-standard and that political considerations were factors in the case.
“You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels,” Comey said.
It was the second time in two days that Comey has faced questions from members of Congress. He is the sole witness as the House Judiciary Committee reviews the FBI’s performance in what is likely to be the agency’s final oversight hearing this year.
On Tuesday, Republican senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee pressed Comey on whether anything could have been done differently to prevent recent acts of extremist violence, such as the Orlando nightclub massacre or the Manhattan bombing. Comey told senators that the FBI is transparent about mistakes, but under questioning from Republicans, he did not agree that anything should have been done differently.
Republicans in the last two days have seized on revelations that the Justice Department granted some form of immunity to nearly a half-dozen individuals tied to the Clinton email investigation.
Comey said agents granted immunity to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, because they wanted to inspect her laptop as part of the investigation. The immunity deal was limited to information contained on her laptop, Comey said.
Republicans have assailed Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, accusing her of mishandling classified information.
“It defies logic and the law that she faces no consequences for jeopardizing national security,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.
Comey also is likely to be grilled about a former State Department employee who helped set up the email server. The House could vote as soon as Thursday on a resolution to hold computer specialist Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress.