The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

As Republicans prepare another Clinton probe, polling finds a political toll

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On Monday, before it got the FBI to provide summaries of its interview with Hillary Clinton during its probe into her private server, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a video about the length of a blockbuster movie trailer.

Like a trailer, the video had pulse-quickening music. It featured two scenes, cut together: one of Clinton's 2015 testimony before the Select Committee on Benghazi and one of FBI Director James B. Comey explaining what was uncovered in the investigation.

The not-so-subtle implication was that Clinton might have perjured herself, and that House investigators would find out.

The video and the FBI request were the latest salvos in the Republican effort to find a smoking gun hidden beneath Clinton's server. Just as the server's existence was revealed in the Benghazi investigation, the "perjury" claim grew out of Comey's testimony to the Oversight Committee. During the testimony itself, Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said the committee would request information from the FBI pertaining to Clinton's interview. Within a day, the panel was asking the FBI to investigate whether Clinton had committed perjury.

Those requests come as interest in the server investigation, which began more than a year ago, appears to have run out. With the FBI interviews, however, Republicans have found a way to use the perjury questions as part of their strategy against the Democratic presidential nominee.

A Monmouth poll released after the Democratic National Convention found that just 34 percent of voters wanted the media to "continue to cover" the email story, a result some Democrats celebrated. But that poll also suggested that voters were simultaneously exhausted and outraged by what the lengthy probe was revealing. In October, Monmouth found that just as many voters — 34 percent — were tired of the story. By a 16-point margin, voters also felt that Clinton had been dishonest about why she had the server in the first place.

This month, the margin on that question surged to 37 points, with 64 percent of voters pronouncing Clinton dishonest and 27 percent saying they trusted her.

Comey's decision not to ask for an indictment, but instead to lay out the ways Clinton had misbehaved, did short-term damage to her trustworthiness rating. It also ended the ability of Republicans (and some holdout supporters of Clinton primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)) to say that the nominee was "under FBI investigation."

But next month, when Congress returns, Republicans will make another lunge at Clinton, with recent experience telling them that while they won't bring her down legally, they can continue to convince voters that the nominee is lying.