The House’s investigation of Benghazi sent the U.S. Marshals Service to serve a subpoena on Sidney Blumenthal, a top Clinton aide whose ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have raised tricky questions for the Democratic presidential hopeful.
Congressional Democrats were furious at the move by Republicans on the Select Committee on Benghazi, calling it unwarranted and saying Mrs. Clinton has tried to cooperate. But Republicans said they are intent on speeding up an investigation they say has been stymied by stonewalling from both Mrs. Clinton and the Obama State Department.
The subpoena demands that Mr. Blumenthal appear before the House committee on June 3 to give a deposition, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the subpoena.
The New York Times reported this week that Mr. Blumenthal, who was not an employee of the State Department at the time of the Benghazi attacks, wrote a series of memos to Mrs. Clinton about events unfolding in Libya before and after the death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi — memos that were forwarded to other officials in Libya and in Washington.
Mrs. Clinton, campaigning in Iowa this week, defended relying on Mr. Blumenthal as an external source, saying he is a longtime friend who sent some “unsolicited” emails she passed on.
“When you’re in the public eye, when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in a bubble and you only hear from a certain small group of people,” she said, according to CNN.
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Republicans say there are still unanswered questions about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. compound in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
A newly uncovered report from the Defense Intelligence Agency, released in response to an open records request from the watchdog group Judicial Watch, offers further evidence that the attacks were planned and did not arise out of a spontaneous demonstration, as the Obama administration said at the time. Rather, the DIA report, issued in the wake of the attacks, said an al Qaeda-linked group had planned the attacks 10 days beforehand.
Democrats counter that the intelligence immediately after the attacks was mixed, and dispute accusations that top Obama aides changed talking points to protect the president’s re-election campaign.
Democrats say the House Benghazi probe, meanwhile, has become a vehicle for the GOP to attack Mrs. Clinton and damage her White House hopes.
The panel’s investigation has expanded from probing Benghazi to examining Mrs. Clinton’s email practices when she was secretary of state: She exclusively used a private account, kept on a server she set up in her own home in New York, to conduct all of her official government business. The existence of that account was secret until the Benghazi panel forced the State Department to acknowledge it — sending Mrs. Clinton and department officials scrambling to comply belatedly with open-records laws.
Mr. Blumenthal’s memos to Mrs. Clinton about Libya were apparently part of the messages the former secretary of state eventually turned over to the government, which released them to the Benghazi panel.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the panel, blasted the Blumenthal subpoena, saying the committee never contacted him and did not hold a committee vote on issuing the subpoena.
“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,” Mr. Cummings said.
Jamal Ware, a spokesman for committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Cummings previously had complained the committee was going too slowly.
“Those who complain about the committee’s speed don’t get to complain when the committee cuts to the chase,” Mr. Ware said.
Republicans said Mrs. Clinton has the power to clear up the questions.
House Speaker John A. Boehner’s office on Wednesday challenged Mrs. Clinton to “prove it” on her claims that she wants her emails made public. Mr. Boehner has said the former secretary of state should turn her server over to a neutral third party, such as the inspector general for the State Department, in order to determine what emails could still be recovered and whether they are government business.
Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer has rejected the request to turn over the private server, as well as Mr. Gowdy’s request that she appear before his committee twice. Instead, Mrs. Clinton has said she will testify only once.