State Wants More Time to Produce Clinton Emails
The State Department did not comply in time with a House Select Committee on Benghazi request to generate copies of 60 emails between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her then-adviser Sidney Blumenthal, and has asked for an extension, the panel’s chairman said Tuesday.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) had given State officials until the end of the day Monday to determine whether the 60 emails, released by the committee on Monday, were included in the 55,000 pages Clinton handed over to the department from her personal email server in December. (Clinton destroyed another 30,000 emails that she and her legal team considered personal, non-work-related correspondence.)
The panel has been investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, since last May, as many GOP House members believe Clinton or the State Department might be withholding politically damaging information. Gowdy has been subpoenaing emails in an effort to uncover all official intelligence surrounding the attack.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that the department needed more time, and according to Gowdy, it officially requested an extension.
“We’re still going through those emails … to see if there are some that we didn’t have originally,” Kirby said, adding that Clinton provided “some” of them as part of the 55,000-page batch and the department disclosed those to the committee, echoing Democrats’ assertions the day before.
“We know that there is some overlap, but we’re still going through them and I don’t have an update on how many,” Kirby said.
Gowdy called that claim into question, saying it “should be neither complicated nor time consuming” to determine whether Clinton had already provided the 60 emails to the State Department. It was reported at the time that Clinton’s team had printed out all 55,000 pages and delivered them to the State Department.
“State should immediately produce to the committee emails that should have been produced months ago or explain why it is not in possession of these emails from Secretary Clinton,” Gowdy said in a statement. “Either response has ramifications toward a full public record.”
He called his request simple and “straightforward,” suggesting the Democratic presidential candidate or the State Department might not be acting with transparency.
Democrats, though, say the delay is due to “draconian sequestration cuts” that have caused a significant backlog in processing such requests due to staff cutbacks. “The committee should stop blaming others for its own delays,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s top Democrat.
Gowdy said Monday that the 60 emails were “curiously” not part of the department’s public or private disclosures to the committee. “This is a straightforward question – State Department either has them or they do not,” he said Tuesday.
Blumenthal sent the emails between February 2011 and December 2012, three months after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The 179-page correspondence involved intelligence information Blumenthal was feeding to Clinton about Libya during and after its civil war, citing Libyan government sources as well as foreign intelligence reports.
Democrats on the committee and Blumenthal’s lawyer want the full transcript from Blumenthal’s nine-hour deposition to be released in order to combat “inaccurate” and “inappropriate” media reports about what happened during the testimony, and to put the emails “in proper context.” Gowdy, though, maintains there is “clear precedent” to keep it classified.
Cummings said in a statement Monday that Gowdy and his fellow Republicans are only focused on bringing down Clinton’s presidential aspirations. “By the Chairman’s own admission, these emails have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi,” Cummings added.
Gowdy accused Democrats of “providing cover” for the Obama Administration’s lack of transparency. “Every request to State is met with delay, a request for extension and pleading to narrow the scope,” he said. “This is a significant issue with negative impact for those who believe our government should be open and responsive to the people.”
According to Republicans on the committee, Democrats have been stonewalling their inquiries into whether Clinton decided to accept or act on particular emails from Blumenthal, adding that they should have already been made public.
Meanwhile, Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said on the campaign trail that she wants the State Department to release her emails as soon as possible.
However, a courtroom battle over a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a Vice News reporter is complicating matters for Clinton. A federal judge ordered that the State Department post Clinton’s work-related emails to its FOIA website on a “rolling” basis every 30 days, after the department originally said in a court filing that it would release all of them early next year.