Revelations about the sophistication of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secret email system spurred a move in Congress on Wednesday to subpoena her records about the Benghazi terrorist attacks and stirred fresh doubts among Democrats about her presumed presidential bid.
As the scope of Mrs. Clinton’s private email account became clear, the House Select Committee on Benghazi said it plans to subpoena “Clintonemail.com” for all correspondence related to the 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
Seven previous congressional investigations did not find any criminal actions by U.S. officials in their responses to the attack, but the discovery of Mrs. Clinton’s private email system is raising questions about whether she complied fully with those inquiries and about the security of her communications.
“Without access to the relevant electronic information and stored data on the server — which was reportedly registered to her home — there is no way the committee, or anyone else, can fully explain why the committee uncovered two email addresses,” Jamal Ware, communications director for the select committee on Benghazi, said in a statement Wednesday.
“This is why former Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of personal emails to conduct official U.S. government business is so problematic and raises significant issues for transparency. The American people have a right to a full accounting of all the former Secretary’s emails, and the committee is committed to working to uncover all the facts,” Mr. Ware said.
The computer server that transmitted and received Mrs. Clinton’s emails — on a private account she used for official business as secretary of state — was traced to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York.
It was unclear who set up or maintained her private email server, which The Associated Press traced to a mysterious identity, Eric Hoteham.
White House and State Department officials couldn’t explain Wednesday how or why the system was set up, and Mrs. Clinton avoided questions for a second straight day. But as ethics questions persisted, some Democrats were expressing angst about the party’s presumptive front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination.
“People are concerned,” a Democratic operative told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity. “This won’t be an issue once the elections roll around, but for those who had hoped the Clintons had left all of their drama in the past, the last couple of weeks have been disconcerting.”
The New Republic, a traditionally liberal magazine that has undergone an editorial shake-up, posted an article online Wednesday titled, “Hillary Clinton is Not Ready for Prime Time.”
The recent New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Zephyr Teachout, said Mrs. Clinton should answer questions immediately about the private email system.
“She shouldn’t have done it,” Ms. Teachout, a Fordham University law professor, told the New York Daily News. “Just as a matter of leadership she should address it directly. This is why we need a primary, to force debate both about policy and leadership style.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, blasted Mrs. Clinton for using the personal email account while conducting her official duties as the nation’s top diplomat.
“President Obama frequently promised that his would be ‘the most transparent administration in history,’” Mr. Boehner said. “Perhaps he forgot to mention this commitment to his first secretary of state? How many emails were in Mrs. Clinton’s account is not clear, and neither is the process her advisers used to determine which ones related to her work at the State Department before turning them over.”
The select committee on Benghazi was sent about 300 emails by the State Department about the attack in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The head of the public policy group that forced the Obama administration to hand over emails on the Benghazi “talking points” questioned Wednesday whether Mrs. Clinton’s personal emails were improperly withheld.
Judicial Watch, a nonprofit watchdog that files lawsuits to force the government to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, obtained emails last year that showed a White House aide pushed the idea that an American-made anti-Muslim video spurred Libyans to attack the U.S. mission in Benghazi in September 2012.
The video explanation was never endorsed by the intelligence community, and the attack was shown to be planned and executed by al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups.
The emails obtained by Judicial Watch did not include any written by Mrs. Clinton.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton now wonders whether his group got the full story.
“We are concerned that the Obama administration may have withheld material information and may have purposely misled and lied to Judicial Watch, as well as at least one federal court about these emails,” said Mr. Fitton. “One key concern is that these emails must be immediately secured so that they can be searched in response to our lawful FOIA requests. In addition to violations of the Freedom of Information Act, laws governing the preservation of federal records and the handling of classified information also may be implicated in this latest Clinton scandal.”
Aside from the Benghazi investigations, the secret email system also has raised questions about whether Mrs. Clinton complied with federal law that requires government employees to retain their official correspondence.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill has said the former secretary complied with the “letter and spirit” of the law and had “every expectation” that all of her emails related to State business would be retained by the department.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday that she wasn’t sure who in the agency is responsible for collecting and maintaining such documents.
She reiterated that Mrs. Clinton’s private account did not violate the law, nor was there a requirement when Mrs. Clinton left office about the length of time allowed to turn over such emails to the department.
“There was not a prohibition on using personal email, but … there was also not a time requirement for when your personal e-mails or documents, writ large, had to be preserved as part of the record,” Ms. Harf said.
In light of the Clinton controversy, the National Archives and Records Administration said Wednesday that it contacted the State Department “to ensure that all federal records are properly identified and managed in accordance with the Federal Records Act and that controls and procedures are in place to manage records effectively in the future.”
Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who served under President George W. Bush, confirmed that he, too, used a private email account while in office. He said he knew of no rules that prevented him from doing so.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama and his top aides knew about Mrs. Clinton’s private email account through regular correspondence with her.
He said the administration might have granted Mrs. Clinton more leeway regarding her email system because she came to the job as “a national figure,” a former first lady and former rival of Mr. Obama’s who “did enter the administration in a unique way.”
A video that surfaced Wednesday showed Mrs. Clinton, while campaigning for the Senate in 2000, told dinner guests at a fundraiser, “I don’t do email.”
The video appeared on an ABC News “20/20” report in 2001 for an investigation of Peter Paul, a convicted felon who was one of Mrs. Clinton’s biggest fundraisers at the time. On the video, Mrs. Clinton can be heard commiserating with Mr. Paul and others at the table.
“As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that, you know, why would I — I don’t even want — why would I ever want to do email?” she can be heard saying.
“No, no,” Mr. Paul replied.
“Can you imagine?” Mrs. Clinton said with a laugh.
She apparently was referring to the numerous investigations of the Clinton White House during her time as first lady, including Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee replied to Mrs. Clinton’s tweet by saying, “Hillary Clinton must think we’re all suckers.”
“The fact Hillary Clinton set up a ‘homebrewed’ email system in her house to skirt federal record-keeping regulations is a pretty good indicator of just how transparent she’s interested in being,” said RNC spokesman Michael Short. “Rather than sending midnight tweets to avoid accountability, Hillary Clinton should be answering questions and allow an independent review of all of her emails, not just the one’s she’s handpicked for release.”
⦁ Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.