Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders are pressuring former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an effort to shake loose evidence that she mishandled events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attacks against a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the attacks.
Since The New York Times first revealed in early March that Clinton had used her private email and server to conduct official State Department business and that she had deleted tens of thousands of personal messages after leaving the Obama administration in early 2013, Republicans have eagerly pursued the issue to determine if there had been a cover-up.
The political stakes have grown in recent weeks as Clinton formally announced her candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and launched listening tours in Iowa and New Hampshire.
On Thursday, Boehner threatened to subpoena her email server in search of additional evidence about her handling of the Benghazi attacks. At the same time, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chair of a House Select Committee conducting the latest investigation into the matter, said in a letter to Clinton’s lawyer that she should pencil in two separate dates to testify on Capitol Hill: one during the week of May 18 to determine whether the House panel had all the relevant documents and emails it needs and the second, no later than June 18 if committee members are satisfied they have all relevant information, to question Clinton again on her handling of the Benghazi crisis.
That second hearing would be certain to provide substantial fireworks, with Republicans pummeling Clinton with provocative questions about what she knew about security problems at the diplomatic outpost leading up to the terrorist attacks and what she and other officials tried to do to protect Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans officials who were killed.
In late March, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth published a story for ProPublica showing that Clinton had exchanged private emails with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Bill Clinton advisor and family friend. His emails contained “at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya….” The disclosure that these exchanges took place on Clinton’s private server and private email once again sparked an outcry for more information.
Boehner told Bloomberg Politics yesterday that he had not decided yet whether to issue a subpoena for the server, “but all options are on the table.”
"It’s important for the American people to know the truth about what happened in Benghazi and it’s important to know what was going on at the State Department before, during and after the events that occurred in Libya,” Boehner added. "We believe that it’s time for Mrs. Clinton to turn [over] that server and all those documents.”
Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member of the special committee, initially offered to make Clinton available to testify in November 2014. At that time, Gowdy noted, his committee had received only eight of Clinton’s emails, out of at least 300 related to Benghazi. Moreover, the State Department at that time delivered several thousand pages of documents to the committee and promised to provide more — but never did.
“Simply put, thank goodness the Committee did not schedule Secretary Clinton’s appearance when some asked us to, or else that hearing would have been woefully and now obviously premature,” Gowdy wrote to Kendall this week. “Discussing Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email with which to conduct public business is a necessary predicate to discussing the facts surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.”
The House is currently conducting the eighth investigation by various congressional committees and a State Department panel into the events at Benghazi. Gowdy had previously indicated he wanted to finish his investigation by the end of this year. But it now appears unlikely the committee could analyze the information and publish its findings and conclusions in a report before early 2016 — just as the presidential campaign will be heating up.
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