By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of private email while secretary of state is closed, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Wednesday, removing a legal cloud that threatened the presumptive Democratic nominee's presidential bid.
Lynch said she accepted the Federal Bureau of Investigation's recommendations that no charges be brought in the probe, as Republicans made clear they would not let Clinton's email headaches fade away easily.
"I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation," Lynch said in a statement.
With the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential and congressional elections beginning to heat up, Republicans called on the administration to make public key documents in the Clinton email case.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, speaking at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, accused Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent, of bribing Lynch to decide not to press charges.
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He was referring to reports, including in the New York Times
this week, that Clinton, if elected president, might ask Lynch to stay on as attorney general.
"She said she’s going to reappoint the attorney general and the attorney general is waiting to make a determination as to whether or not she’s guilty. And boy was that a fast determination, wow," Trump said, adding, "That's bribery folks."
On Capitol Hill, Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House of Representatives Republican, reacted to Lynch's announcement by proclaiming: "Secretary Clinton broke the law and lied about it."
Senior Senate Republicans insisted that the FBI's investigation be made available to the public, including a transcript of the more than three hours Clinton spent last Saturday in an interview conducted by the agency.
Shortly before Lynch's announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, "I think the next step...is to compare what Hillary Clinton said to the FBI with what Hillary Clinton's been saying to all of us over the last couple of years during this controversy."
In a blistering attack on Clinton, John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said on the Senate floor: "The bottom line is Secretary Clinton actively sought out ways to hide her actions as much as possible" by using a private email account while heading the State Department. "And in so doing, she put our country at risk" by leaving those emails vulnerable to computer hackers.
Democrats have questioned Republicans' motives and accused them of squandering taxpayer dollars with lengthy investigations that have failed to uncover illegal activities.
"Republicans are in such desperate shape because of Trump (that) they would seize upon anything" to divert attention, said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
And Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement following Lynch's announcement: "This investigation is closed and that should be the end of this matter."
On Tuesday, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, had been "extremely careless" in her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, but he recommended no criminal charges be filed in the case.
Comey, who was deputy attorney general during the George W. Bush administration before becoming FBI director in 2013, is scheduled to testify on Thursday before a House committee, where Republicans and Democrats are expected to press him on his findings in the Clinton case.
Lynch said she met on Wednesday afternoon with Comey and the career prosecutors and agents who had investigated whether Clinton broke the law as result of email servers kept in her Chappaqua, New York, home. One question is whether she mishandled classified information.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said on Wednesday it appeared Clinton received preferential treatment from the FBI.
Asked whether a special prosecutor should be named to investigate the matter, Ryan said the House would not "foreclose any options."
But Ryan did say that because of her messy handling of emails while serving as secretary of state, Clinton should be denied access to classified information during the campaign.
Presidential candidates normally get such briefings once they are formally nominated. McConnell, Ryan's Senate counterpart, stopped short of calling for such action.
Clinton's campaign was anxious to move on after Comey's announcement, saying in a statement on Tuesday it was pleased with the FBI decision.
(Reporting by Eric Beech and Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Andrew Hay)