The committee investigating the Benghazi attacks formally requested Friday that Hillary Rodham Clinton turn her email server over to an independent third party so it can be scrutinized to determine whether she and the Obama administration complied with open records laws.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee’s chairman, sent a letter to the former secretary of state’s personal lawyer to make the request, which he said only comes after “exhaustive efforts” to get a look at her communications during the time of the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post and CIA annex in Libya’s second-largest city.
“Though Secretary Clinton alone is responsible for causing this issue, she alone does not get to determine its outcome,” the South Carolina Republican said.
Mrs. Clinton earlier this month admitted she refused to use an official government-issued email account and instead conducted government business on a personal account she set up on a server she controlled out of her New York home.
She has asserted she complied with the law by hoping her emails were being cataloged based on whom she was mailing, and, by late last year — nearly two years after she left office — turning over about 30,000 emails she retroactively deemed to be government business. She said she did not turn over about 32,000 other messages she deemed private.
Mrs. Clinton previously has rejected turning her email server over to someone else, saying she believes the law gives her final say on which emails should be deemed public.
Mr. Gowdy has said Mrs. Clinton could turn her server over to a retired federal judge, an inspector general or some other third party with a professional reputation for even-handedness.
A Clinton spokesman, however, reiterated her stance that she has met her obligations.
“We’ve turned over all of her work emails, and taken the extraordinary step of asking the State Department to release all of them,” said spokesman Nick Merrill. “When they are released, which we hope to be soon, it will offer an unprecedented opportunity for the American people to see for themselves that they are all there, and then some.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill have rallied to Mrs. Clinton’s defense, with Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and a member of the Benghazi committee, saying he was “deeply troubled” by Mr. Gowdy’s move.
Mr. Schiff said the Benghazi committee already has Mrs. Clinton’s emails related to the terrorist attack.
“None of them support the various conspiracy theories that have been advanced about the tragic death of four Americans on that terrible day. The secretary has urged the committee to make these public, and the chairman has refused,” Mr. Schiff said.
The congressman called the request to surrender the email server unprecedented, and pointed to email troubles the Republican National Committee faced during President George W. Bush’s tenure. Mr. Schiff said Democrats, who controlled Congress at the time and led a probe into the RNC emails, worked with the party organization to make sure the emails were turned over and preserved.
“The GOP members of the select committee may think this is good presidential politics, but it is a terrible abuse of a taxpayer-funded committee that was supposed to investigate a tragedy in Benghazi,” Mr. Schiff said.
During the probe of the RNC emails, Democratic investigators gave search terms to the party’s lawyers, who then performed the search themselves. The oversight committee, which was investigating, trusted the RNC’s searches.
However, in the current situation, Mrs. Clinton did the search herself to determine which emails she believed were work-related rather than having the State Department or another party conduct the search of all of her messages.