Republicans focus on Clinton mails

2015-07-14 17:58
Benghazi general view

Benghazi general view

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Washington - A special House committee on the 2012 Benghazi attacks has devolved from an investigation into the deaths of four Americans in Libya into a political fight over Hillary Clinton's emails and private computer servers - a battle that is likely to stretch into the 2016 presidential election year.

Republicans say Clinton has only herself and the department she once ran to blame for the shift in focus amid her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton, who served as secretary of state in 2012 when militants attacked the US mission in Benghazi, chose to use a private email server, rather than a government server - and later deleted thousands of emails she said were not related to her work.

The State Department, meanwhile, has struggled to produce a trove of emails involving Clinton and some of her key staffers. The resulting impasse has prolonged the committee's work, said Representative Trey Gowdy, a Republican and the chair of the Benghazi panel.

"The reason we are having a conversation about her email arrangement is because of her unusual email arrangement with herself, and not because of anything we've done on the Benghazi committee," Gowdy, a former prosecutor, said in an interview.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the committee's top Democrat, said the panel has assumed a new purpose: "Derail Hillary Clinton's presidential efforts by any means necessary."

"Anybody can now see that's what it's all about," Cummings said in an interview. He'd like to see Clinton testify before the committee as soon as possible.

There's no such session scheduled, even though Clinton is expected on Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with congressional Democrats.

Her campaign, meanwhile, has posted a 3 600-word fact sheet on the candidate's use of a private email server during her time at the State Department.

What's undisputed is that the select committee's work will continue into 2016, guaranteeing that Benghazi - and the deaths of four Americans, including US ambassador Chris Stevens - will shadow Clinton during her second White House bid.

Clinton herself may have provided a glimpse of that future when she declared during a CNN interview last week that she "never had a subpoena" compelling the production of emails sent while she was secretary of state.

Eight previous investigations

Gowdy pounced, releasing a subpoena he issued to Clinton in March to "correct the inaccuracy" of her claim. In fact, he had publicly announced delivery of the document at the time.

He didn't tell Clinton to go on TV, Gowdy said, "and I certainly didn't tell her what to say. Had she not said what she said to the CNN reporter, you would not have seen my homely self on TV."

Cummings rose to Clinton's defence, calling her statement "an honest mistake" and denouncing the Republicans" release of the subpoena as a "stunt" in an ongoing "taxpayer-funded attack" on the Democratic front-runner.

Cummings and other Democrats voted against creating the panel last year, saying that at least eight previous investigations had disproved a variety of conspiracy theories about the attacks nearly three years ago. Notions that US forces were ordered to "stand down" during the attacks or that Clinton played a direct role in security decisions are false, congressional investigators say.

Gowdy maintains that the committee is not concerned about conspiracies, but intent on learning the full truth about the attacks. The focus on Clinton is because, "No 1, she was secretary of state at all relevant times. That's a pretty big fact," he said.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  benghazi  |  us

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