A group of lawmakers objected Thursday to what they describe as the politicizing of two ongoing government reviews of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email practices.
Four Democratic senators and three House members sent a letter to Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. The inspectors general are conducting separate reviews of whether then-Secretary of State Clinton and her top aides mishandled sensitive information in emails that passed through a private server in the basement of her New York home.
Republicans have sought to make Clinton's email use a key issue in the presidential race, and in a debate this week the former secretary again defended her decision to use a private server to handle her work email. While Clinton has conceded her email setup was a mistake, she denies government secrets were ever endangered.
The Democrats, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein of California and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy of Vermont, questioned whether the investigations are being conducted in an impartial manner. They also chided the inspectors general for past errors in determining what material should be marked as classified.
"Based on public reports and communications from your offices to Congress, we have serious questions about how this review is being conducted," the lawmakers wrote to McCullough and Linick. "Already, this review has been too politicized. We are relying on you as independent inspectors general to perform your duties dispassionately and comprehensively."
Doug Welty, a spokesman for the State Department's inspector general, denied that partisan politics play any role in the investigators' work.
"At all times, State OIG operates as an independent organization, consistent with the law," Welty said. "Our work will continue to be unbiased, objective and fact-based. We are now reviewing the email practices of the current and last four secretaries of State, not just Secretary Clinton. Any suggestion that the office is biased against any particular secretary is completely false."
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The office of the Intelligence Community's inspector general has not replied to phone and email messages seeing comment.
By suggesting the investigations are unfair to Clinton, the Democrats run the risk of providing fodder to GOP lawmakers calling for a special prosecutor to be assigned to the case.
In addition to the IG reviews, the FBI has for months been investigating whether any laws were violated. The State Department has acknowledged that some emails included classified information, including at the top-secret level.
Clinton has said she never sent or received anything that was marked classified at the time.