Hillary Clinton agrees to testify on Benghazi, emails – Politico
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to testify later this month before a House panel investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and her email practices.
David Kendall, a lawyer for Clinton, told the House Select Committee on Benghazi lawmakers on Monday that she will take questions at a hearing during the week of May 18 but has no intention of returning to Capitol Hill for a second hearing before the panel.
Story Continued Below
“Secretary Clinton has been and remains ready and willing to testify in public…..about the tragic events of September 2012,” Kendall wrote. “At that time, she will, of course, address any other questions the committee believes to be pertinent to its charge, including the questions posed…about her email.”
Kendall added that Chairman Trey Gowdy’s request for a second hearing focused solely on Clinton’s use of a private email account and server while secretary of state has “no basis, logic, or precedent.”
He added that Clinton is ready to “stay as long as necessary to answer the Committee’s questions, but will not prolong the Committee’s efforts further by appearing on two separate occasions when one will suffice.” Clinton first said late last year that she was prepared to testify but both sides have engaged in a public back-and-forth about the number of hearings and venues.
Congressional Republicans have argued that they need at least two hearings as the panel doesn’t yet have access to the trove of documents itrequested from the CIA, State Department and White House.
It is unclear how Gowdy will respond to the most recent insistence from Clinton’s lawyer that she is only willing to appear once.
“The committee will take his response into consideration, and Chairman Gowdy will issue a statement on behalf of the Committee regarding the path forward,” said Select Committee on Benghazi Communications Director Jamal Ware said Monday.
He added, “The committee has consistently shown it is interested in getting the facts and doing so in a deliberate and diligent manner. 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.”
Gowdy originally asked Clinton to appear before the panel for two interviews — one in public on Libya and another private hearing on Clinton’s email use while at State. But Gowdy backed away from that request after Kendall said Clinton was prepared to answer all questions in public.
The exchanges between Gowdy and Clinton’s camps over the venue and type of hearings could ramp up pressure on congressional Republicans to bring Clinton in after the May hearing if new evidence comes forward in the form of emails or interviews with witnesses.
Clinton is not under subpoena to appear before the panel, but lawmakers have floated that as an option if the former secretary of state refuses to answer questions before the panel.
The expected Capitol Hill appearance will be an early test for Clinton’s nascent 2016 presidential campaign. She was widely seen as having upstaged congressional Republicans when she testified in January 2013 about the Benghazi attacks. But revelations about her private email and server use have dogged Clinton in recent weeks.
“Given the fact that she has already testified previously on this very matter, the only reason the Committee might seek to further prolong this inquiry would be to again exploit a tragedy for purely political purposes,” Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, said.
Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, wants Clinton to appear before his committee twice: once on the terrorist attacks and a second time to discuss her email use. He has argued that the Benghazi Committee won’t be able to effectively investigate the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 attacks until lawmakers are assured that all emails and documents related to Benghazi are in their possession.
The State Department made 900 pages of emails from Clinton to the panel last year and is working to vet another 30,000 pages for public release. Gowdy said late last month that his panel received 4,000 pages of new documents from the State Department, evidence that was never previously seen by the half-dozen congressional committees that investigated Benghazi.
Gowdy said that release highlights the need for access to Clinton.
“Contrary to those who said all had been asked and answered, the Benghazi Committee has shown there is more still for Congress to consider,” Gowdy said at the time. “The committee will provide the final, definitive accounting of what happened with regards to Benghazi, reaching conclusions based solely on facts. Getting this production from State’s Benghazi ARB is an important part of ensuring the committee has access to all the facts.”
But Democrats have repeatedly called foul on Gowdy’s work. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the panel, has accused the seven Republicans on the panel of focusing on Clinton to damage the 2016 presidential contender.
“Chairman Gowdy should take yes for an answer and finally schedule the hearing. Dragging out this process further into the presidential election season sacrifices any chance that the American people will see it as serious or legitimate,” Cummings said Monday. “After nearly a year, we have still found not a scrap of evidence to support claims Secretary Clinton ordered a stand-down, approved an illicit weapons program, or any of the other wild allegations that Republicans have been making about her for years.”
Clinton’s expected appearance will come nearly a year after Speaker John Boehner announced his intention to create the special panel.