Hil on the grill: Benghazi committee demands Clinton testify on emails
– The Washington Times – Updated: 1:36 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The Benghazi investigative committee on Tuesday formally requested former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton give a transcribed interview detailing her decision-making in determining which emails she turned over to the government and why she wiped her email server clean.
Chairman Trey Gowdy said Mrs. Clinton’s “unique arrangement with herself” — in which she claimed complete control of government business emails — needs to be explained, and nobody other than Mrs. Clinton can do that.
The interview would be behind closed doors, but would be part of the committee investigation’s record. A public hearing would follow eventually, once the select investigative committee has gathered all of the documents it believes it needs, said Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, in a letter to Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer.
“We continue to believe Secretary Clinton’s email arrangement with herself is highly unusual, if not unprecedented,” he said. “The decision to delete these records during the pendency of a congressional investigation only exacerbates our need to better understand what the secretary did, when she did it, and why she did it. While she has cited a variety of justifications for this arrangement, many questions and details about the arrangement remain unanswered.”
Mr. Gowdy said the questions include why Mrs. Clinton refused a government-issued account and set up her own account and server; why she kept the emails herself rather than turning them over to the State Department when she left office in early 2013; and how she decided which of the 62,000 emails from her time in office she would delete, and which she would turn over.
The chairman also pointedly made clear that since the emails are under committee investigation, any action to destroy them would be illegal. He said that’s why Mrs. Clinton must turn her server over to a neutral third party — a request Mrs. Clinton’s team has rejected, saying she has already complied with the law
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said Mrs. Clinton looks forward to a public hearing, but he didn’t address Mr. Gowdy’s request for a transcribed interview.
“Secretary Clinton already told the committee months ago that she was ready to appear at a public hearing. It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” Mr. Merrill said. “To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public.”
Mrs. Clinton said she used an email server she set up at her home in New York, and issued herself her own email address, because she wanted to use a single device and account for both personal and private mail. She has said she determined about 30,000 of her 62,000 emails from her time in office were government-related, and in December 2014 — nearly two years after she left office — she turned those over to the State Department, after prodding by the Benghazi committee.
The emails she turned over amounted to 55,000 pages, and the State Department said this week it will take several more months to process those, since it needs to scan them to create digital files, and then needs to run them by experts to see what can be released publicly.
In a court filing this week the Obama administration said it wants to rush production of all of those emails online, and rejected a request from a conservative legal group, Judicial Watch, for quick turnaround on an open-records request.
But the State Department didn’t apply that to all requests. The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning that the department had released four of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to the news organization — including one that showed Mrs. Clinton used an iPad in addition to her mobile phone for sending emails.
That contradicts one of Mrs. Clinton’s justifications for having a single account. The former first lady and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had told reporters in early March that she didn’t want to carry multiple devices.
Judicial Watch has multiple outstanding requests for Clinton emails and its president, Tom Fitton, said the State Department has searched Mrs. Clinton’s emails in one of those requests and will divulge the results to the group on April 2.
“It is not a matter of playing favorites, it is a matter of further harming [through delay] our right to know under the Freedom of Information Act, which the agency has trashed,” Mr. Fitton said.