In a blistering letter to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the panel’s top Democrat said that information apparently leaked to Politico by a member or committee staffer was “doctored” in order to damage former Secretary of State and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton.
Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has been highly critical of the committee’s work, said that a June 17 Politico article (since corrected) relied on an anonymous source’s description of emails obtained as part of the investigation, who misled the publication by taking things written by Clinton in response to two different emails and pretending that they were in response to a completely different email.
The effect was to create the impression that Clinton was actively engaged in damage control in October 2012, a month after a terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Because the emails in question came from Sidney Blumenthal, who was at the time advising Clinton despite the directive of President Barack Obama that he be kept out of the administration’s discussions, the leak received particular attention.
The source also told Politico that the supposedly incriminating email was not originally turned over by the State Department when the Select Committee requested documents relevant to its investigations, creating still more suggestion of a cover-up.
Cummings, however, points out in his letter that the email in question was received by the Committee and logged as evidence in February, along with the other material turned over by the department.
In his letter, Cummings laid blame for the leak at Gowdy’s feet.
“In the Select Committee’s one-year progress report in May, you proclaimed: ‘serious investigations do not leak information or make selective releases of information without full and proper context.’ Yet, it now appears that someone who was given access to the Select Committee’s documents leaked doctored information to the press in order to make unsubstantiated allegations against Secretary Clinton,” Cummings wrote.
Pointing out that Gowdy has declined to establish “protocols for the release of documents obtained” in the investigation, Cummings stated that “it is unclear how you propose to prevent this type of abuse from happening again in the future.”
As of early Monday afternoon, the Select Committee had not released a statement or otherwise responded to the Cummings letter.
Update: On Monday afternoon, the Select Committee on Benghazi released a letter from Gowdy to Cummings, responding to the Democrat’s complaints.
It said, in part: “Regarding your latest, desperate accusations someone ‘doctored’ an email, I would note it is the latest in a series of breathless accusations you have made without effort to provide proof of fact beyond your mere assertion of the claim. The fact this news story was updated in short order is proof your claim is fallacious on its face. If a ‘doctored’ email had been presented to the reporter, clearly the reporter would not have been so quick to make the change. I find your repeated partisan attempts to distract from the facts and substance of this investigation, which revealed the four key claims Secretary Clinton made about her use of private email and a server for official public business are demonstrably false, to be tedious and mendacious. Accordingly, I have instructed my staff to no longer waste time responding to your increasingly wild, inaccurate and baseless claims and to instead remain focused on discharging the mission given to us by the House of Representatives.”
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