- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - A longtime confidant of Hillary Rodham Clinton has been subpoenaed to testify before a special House panel investigating the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, according to an official familiar with the probe.

This official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the subpoena was issued by the panel headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. The official declined to be identified publicly because he wasn’t authorized to discuss by name an investigation still in progress.

The panel has “a number of questions” for Sidney Blumenthal, the official said, including whether he had any business arrangements that led him to send emails to Clinton and other officials concerning Libya while Clinton was secretary of state. Blumenthal was not an employee of the State Department at the time.

Clinton had initially been expected to testify this week on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens, but her testimony was put off after Gowdy complained that he lacked the necessary State Department documents to thoroughly question her. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, was in Iowa Tuesday for a campaign appearance.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the panel, issued a statement Wednesday assailing the committee’s GOP leadership for its handling of the subpoena.

“There was no need for the Select Committee to send two U.S. Marshals to the home of Sidney Blumenthal…especially since the committee never bothered to contact him first to ask him whether he would voluntarily come in,” Cummings said. “These heavy-handed, aggressive and unnecessary tactics waste the time of the U.S. Marshal service.”

“These latest moves by the Benghazi Committee - issuing a subpoena without first contacting the witness, leaking news of the subpoena before it was served, and not holding any committee debate or vote - are straight out the partisan playbook of discredited Republican investigations,” the congressman added. “The fact is that we have had these exact emails for three months, and the latest abuses by the committee are just one more example of a partisan, taxpayer-funded attack against Secretary Clinton and her bid for president.”

Gowdy complained to Kerry last week that the State Department had delayed providing emails and other documents involving Clinton and her top associates. “Simply put, the committee must have the records of communication requested more than six months ago before the secretary’s appearance can be scheduled,” Gowdy wrote.

The State Department said the department has provided 300 emails from Clinton, 19 witnesses and more than 40,000 pages of documents from the initial departmental investigation.

Democrats have complained that Gowdy and other Republicans are drawing out the Benghazi hearings in order to disrupt Clinton’s presidential campaign, but Gowdy said that the State Department is to blame for any delays.

Jamal Ware , a spokesman for the Benghazi committee, said Tuesday that “questions about why it will take so long and how much it will cost the department to comply with public records requests due to challenges stemming from former Secretary Clinton’s personal email arrangement are best directed to State and the former secretary.”

Ware added that Gowdy believes it is “imperative” for the sake of transparency that “the complete public record of Secretary Clinton’s time in office be made available for the American people as quickly as possible.” Ware said the committee is focused solely on Benghazi.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Blumenthal, 66, had written then-Secretary Clinton a host of emails about Libya before and after the death of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Blumenthal was a White House aide during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

On Tuesday Clinton said she wants the State Department to speed release of her emails.

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