- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2015

Under pressure from a federal judge and from the press, who’d already obtained many of the emails, the State Department on Friday afternoon finally released the first sliver of former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails showing her communications concerning Benghazi.

The 296 messages released are a fraction of the 30,000 or so she kept on her private server but which she has now deemed to be public business, and — at the prodding of Congress and the department to live up to her obligations under the law — has now turned over to the administration.

All of the messages Friday relate to Benghazi, the Libyan city where a terrorist assault in 2012 left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. But many of the emails had already been disclosed by the New York Times earlier this week, undercutting much of the State Department’s efforts.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican leading the House investigation into the Benghazi attacks, said the emails should be read in the context that they were all hand-selected by Mrs. Clinton, who has said only she had the duty to decide which of her emails were official business. Her lawyers have said she erased all of the messages after turning some of them back over to the Obama administration, her former employer.

“To assume a self-selected public record is complete, when no one with a duty or responsibility to the public had the ability to take part in the selection, requires a leap in logic no impartial reviewer should be required to make and strains credibility,” said Mr. Gowdy, whose probe forced the State Department to acknowledge Mrs. Clinton’s use of a personal email broke with recommended practice for government employees.

Mr. Gowdy also said the State Department is still withholding emails among Mrs. Clinton’s top aides concerning Benghazi.

The Clinton messages that were released Friday showed the back-and-forth between Mrs. Clinton and some of those aides as they sought to get a handle on the situation on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, and how to explain the attack to the public. But the emails also show some of the information Mrs. Clinton was getting in the months ahead of the attack, including warnings of unsafe conditions.

Most striking were the number of messages from Sid Blumenthal, a Clinton confidante whom the Obama White House had barred her from hiring, but who continued to feed her what he labeled “confidential” information.

The State Department insisted the emails don’t add anything to the public version of events that night.

“The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks,” the department said in advance of the release, which came in a very computer-unfriendly form, with each document having to be clicked and downloaded separately.

Mrs. Clinton turned over tens of thousands of emails in paper form last December, or nearly two years after she left office, belatedly complying with federal law that required all official government business communications to be archived.

Democrats on Capitol Hill took credit for release of the emails, saying they’d been asking for the move for months.

But the State Department is also under a court order to begin releasing the 30,000 emails on a rolling basis, with priority for the Benghazi emails. Department officials had instead wanted to release all of the emails in one major event eight months from now, but a federal judge in Washington rejected that.

As the emails were being released, Mrs. Clinton, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, was speaking in New Hampshire on business growth.

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