Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton’s credibility came under new assault on Wednesday when the Republican-led House special committee on Benghazi released its March 4 subpoena to refute the former secretary of state’s claim that she was never subpoenaed to turn over email.
Mrs. Clinton made the claim Tuesday in the first national TV interview of her three-month-old campaign. It was part of her uneven and at times uncomfortable performance answering questions in front of CNN’s cameras.
But the most severe repercussions were from Mrs. Clinton’s protestations about how she handled her email as America’s top diplomat, when she exclusively used a private email account to conduct official business and then, years later, deleted about half of the messages rather than turn them over to the State Department.
“The committee has issued several subpoenas, but I have not sought to make them public,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. “I would not make this one public now, but after Secretary Clinton falsely claimed the committee did not subpoena her, I have no choice in order to correct the inaccuracy.”
The six-page subpoena was issued directly to Mrs. Clinton and served to her attorney on March 4, 2015. It demanded all email sent to and from the private account she used as secretary of state between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2012, and included detailed instructions for how the email files should be indexed and delivered to the committee.
The committee issued the subpoena after lawmakers learned that Mrs. Clinton used a private email account, keeping her correspondence out of the custody of the State Department and shielding it from congressional investigators, according to the committee.
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Mrs. Clinton insisted in the interview that she had not been subpoenaed for the email when she deleted about 33,000 messages that she deemed personal. She later wiped clean the private email server, which she kept in her home in Chappaqua, New York.
Mrs. Clinton turned over to the State Department about 30,000 emails — the contents of which filled 55,000 pages — that she hand-picked to be reviewed and potentially released by the agency.
Asked why she deleted the email while facing a subpoena, Mrs. Clinton replied: “I’ve never had a subpoena.”
“Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation,” she said. “Now I didn’t have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me, because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.”
Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, said that Mrs. Clinton had a statutory duty to preserve records from her entire time in office and a legal duty to cooperate fully and honestly with congressional investigators.
“Yet despite direct congressional inquiry, she refused to inform the public of her unusual email arrangement. This information only came to light because of a Select Committee request, not a voluntary decision to turn over records almost two years after leaving office, records which always should have been in State’s custody,” he said.
“Moreover, the timing of the secretary’s decision to delete and attempt to permanently destroy emails is curious at best,” he continued. “The secretary left office in February of 2013. By her own admission she did not delete or destroy emails until the fall of 2014, well after this committee had been actively engaged in securing her emails from the Department of State. For 20 months it was not too burdensome or cumbersome for the secretary to house records on her personal server, but, mysteriously, in the fall of 2014, she decided to delete and attempt to permanently destroy those same records.”
The Clinton campaign did not respond to questions about the subpoena or Mr. Gowdy’s allegations.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking member on the Benghazi committee, came to Mrs. Clinton’s defense.
“Obviously everyone — including Secretary Clinton — knows Chairman Gowdy issued a subpoena back in March because he also issued a press release about it at the time,” he said. “It appears clear that Secretary Clinton was answering a question about whether she deleted emails ‘while facing a subpoena.’ She produced her work-related emails to the State Department in December, which was months before the chairman’s subpoena in March.”
He called Mr. Gowdy’s release of the subpoena “nothing but a stunt in this latest taxpayer-funded attack against Secretary Clinton.”
Mrs. Clinton’s secretive email practices have become a focus of the committee’s probe of the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The email also has been an issue for Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail, and will continue to dog her throughout the campaign as the State Department makes public a new batch of her email every month in accordance with a court order.
The dispute over the subpoena also highlighted the persistent questions about Mrs. Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness, issues she also wrestled with in the CNN interview.
Mrs. Clinton said that the polls showing voters increasingly saying they don’t trust her were the result of Republicans relentlessly assailing her with “unsubstantiated attacks.”
“This has been the theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years, and, at the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out,” Mrs. Clinton. “I trust the American voter 100 percent.”
Her words rang true for supporters, who said the flap over the subpoena was part of Republicans’ and the House Benghazi committee’s ongoing persecution of Mrs. Clinton.
“I just don’t listen to it anymore,” said George Ensley, a fan of Mrs. Clinton and chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party in Boone County. “They’re just scared to death of her, and that’s why this goes on.”
• S.A. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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