House Benghazi panel calls for Clinton to testify in private – MiamiHerald.com
The House of Representatives committee that’s investigating the 2012 fatal attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, formally asked Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to appear before lawmakers for a closed-door interview to answer questions about the use of a private email account while she was secretary of state.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, sent a letter to Clinton on Tuesday asking that she sit for a “transcribed interview regarding her use of private email and a personal server for official State Department business” by May 1.
“The committee believes a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary of State Clinton’s privacy, the security of the information queried and the public’s interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it,” Gowdy wrote to Clinton attorney David Kendall.
Clinton, through a spokesman, said she’d told the committee months ago “that she was ready to appear at a public hearing.”
“It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said. “To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, blasted Gowdy’s request as a political stunt.
“Secretary Clinton agreed to testify months ago – in public and under oath – so the select committee’s claim that it has no choice but to subject her to a private staff interview is inaccurate,” Cummings said in a statement.
Cummings added that “rather than drag out this political charade into 2016 and selectively leak portions of a closed-door interview, the committee should schedule a public hearing, make her records public and refocus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi.”
However, one Democratic member of the committee said she thought Clinton should testify to the panel.
“I think all of her official emails in the State Department should be released,” said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who recently announced that she’ll seek the Senate seat currently held by Republican Mark Kirk. “Transparency is the best policy. There are going to be some that are classified. Those that are classified, then show those to a bipartisan group of members of Congress.”
Clinton has said she didn’t transmit any classified information via her private account.
At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who’s repeatedly said the administration has done enough to respond to the committee, said that if “Clinton, in her capacity as a private citizen, decides that she wants to once again go above and beyond in terms of trying to provide them information and access, then that will be a decision for her to make.”
Clinton, 67, is the presumed front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. She continues to be dogged by ethical questions about her family foundation’s acceptance of foreign donations, as well as her use of a private email account to conduct government business while she led the State Department from 2009 to 2013.
Gowdy’s request came as The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Clinton had used an iPad in addition to a BlackBerry for email while at the State Department, despite her assertions that she’d used a personal email address and a home server so she could carry only one device.
On Friday, Clinton’s attorney told the committee that she’d permanently deleted all emails from the private server, apparently after she was first asked by the State Department to turn them over.
Clinton also said Friday that she wouldn’t allow an independent third party to analyze the server. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the emails could be recovered from the server through forensic procedures.
Gowdy had previously called on Clinton to allow an independent arbiter to evaluate all emails on her server to determine which qualified as official business.
Clinton said at a news conference a few weeks ago that it would have been smarter to have State Department business run through a government server. She said her attorneys had turned over 30,490 emails to the department in response to a request from the agency but that she’d deleted more than 32,000 emails that she considered personal.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that Clinton could expect a dogged investigation from Gowdy.
“That guy is a superstar,” Bush told conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt. “He respects the rule of law. He’ll be a gentleman about it, but he’s not going to give up on this notion that she needs to come clean with what she knows about that information and other things for sure.”
Before Clinton’s email controversy, Bush released thousands of official emails from his years as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. They had already been available, but he placed them in a more accessible format. Bush did not release emails from his private account, which contained information related to politics and family.
Gowdy is heading the latest House inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Killed in the violence were U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Greg Gordon and Lesley Clark contributed to this story.