Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rejected the Benghazi probe’s request that she testify twice, saying she will appear once, in public, to talk about the 2012 terrorist attack and her controversial email practices, and will stay as long as there are questions from the panel.
David E. Kendall, the Clintons’ personal lawyer, told Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chief of the Benghazi probe, that it is unfair to try to make Mrs. Clinton testify twice — once privately about her email habits and once publicly about the attack on the diplomatic compound.
“There is no basis, logic or precedent for such an unusual request,” Mr. Kendall said, insisting she has turned over all of her emails that she deems to be public business, albeit two years after she left office.
The letter, which congressional Democrats released to the public, appeared to be a move to try to put pressure on congressional Republicans to finish their investigation as quickly as possible. Mrs. Clinton is now an announced presidential candidate, and she faces a number of other questions over her behavior during her time as secretary of state.
Mr. Gowdy’s spokesman said they have the letter but didn’t say whether they will accede to Mrs. Clinton’s demand, saying only they will take it “into consideration.”
“The committee has consistently shown it is interested in getting the facts and doing so in a deliberate and diligent manner,” said the spokesman, Jamal Ware. “As a result of the Benghazi Committee’s efforts, the American people now know about Secretary Clinton’s unusual email arrangement with herself, something that would not be known had the committee rushed to call the former secretary in November as committee Democrats pushed.”
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Mr. Gowdy has said his probe could be finished more quickly if the Obama administration and Mrs. Clinton cooperated better.
Mr. Kendall said from their standpoint, Mrs. Clinton has fulfilled her duties and it’s up to the State Department to affirm that all relevant information has now been provided to the probe.
He said Mrs. Clinton could appear as early as the week of May 18, if Mr. Gowdy wishes.
Mrs. Clinton was in charge of the State Department on Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorists assaulted the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, killing for Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, who was visiting the outpost.
The administration initially blamed the attack on an anti-Islamic video, but later decided it was an orchestrated terrorist assault.
An initial State Department review found problems with security at the compound, but that review never spoke with Mrs. Clinton, instead limiting its investigation — and blame — to lower-level employees.
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The House, controlled by Republicans, then established the Select Committee on Benghazi to try to probe deeper.
As part of that review, the committee pressed for Mrs. Clinton’s communications, which is when Congress learned that she had refused to use a State Department-issued email account, instead setting up a server and email address herself. The department has admitted that those communications were not regularly checked in response to open-records requests or congressional inquiries, because Mrs. Clinton had control of them.
Late last year, nearly two years after she left office, Mrs. Clinton turned over about 30,000 emails she said she had determined were government business. She said she discarded another 32,000 emails she concluded were her private affairs, then wiped her server clean. She has refused calls from Mr. Gowdy to turn the server over to a neutral third party while she and the committee debate the next steps.
Using a personal email account was frowned upon during Mrs. Clinton’s time in office, but wasn’t forbidden, as long as the employee forwarded all business-related messages to his or her public account for proper storage. Mrs. Clinton did not do that until well after she left office — though the law does not include a time limit for it to happen.
House Speaker John A. Boehner has said the whole House may vote to subpoena Mrs. Clinton’s email server.