After Hillary Clinton refused to privately testify about her email use before the congressional committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, her campaign issued a blistering statement blaming Republicans for playing politics.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called a news report that the Benghazi committee’s work would likely not be finished until next year “the most telling evidence yet that their investigation is solely about playing politics in the 2016 presidential campaign.”
“Sadly, Republicans are determined to continue to exploit this tragedy in an effort to try and hurt her campaign,” Podesta said in a statement.
But Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, maintains that he wants the committee to finish its work by year’s end.
“Secretary Clinton’s decision to seek the presidency of the United States does not and will not impact the work of the committee. We have said all along we need to ensure we have her complete record,” Gowdy said in a statement.
Gowdy and other Republicans are quick to point out that the committee’s time table is largely dependent on how long it takes to gather documents and testimony from Clinton and the Obama administration, factors outside of their control.
“They could clean this up a whole lot quicker if the administration and former Secretary Clinton were in a position to actually cooperate with the committee and turn over the kind of information we were seeking for some time,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. “But the administration has made it virtually impossible to get to the facts surrounding Benghazi. And so when we have the facts, we’ll have a report.”
Clinton is under fire for conducing official government business on a personal email server.
In a letter to Gowdy, Clinton’s lawyer wrote that the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate is still willing to testify publicly.
“There is no reason to delay her appearance or to have her testify in a private interview,” David Kendall wrote, adding that questions about Clinton’s email use “have already been publicly answered by Secretary Clinton.”
Gowdy disagreed, arguing that Clinton has not “answered all questions surrounding the unusual email arrangement she had with herself.”
“The committee has Mr. Kendall’s letter under advisement and will issue a response tomorrow setting out a reasonable path forward with respect to Secretary Clinton’s appearances to discuss both Benghazi as well as congressional efforts to ensure the public record is complete with respect to her tenure as Secretary of State,” Gowdy said in a statement.
Democrats are pushing for a public hearing. They argue that parts of the private, transcribed interview Gowdy requested could be selectively leaked without context and Clinton would not have a copy of the interview to rebut those claims.
“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,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the commitee’s top-ranking Democrat. “The committee should schedule the public hearing, make her records public, and re-focus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi.”
Gowdy has argued that he wants to collect all the relevant documents before bringing Clinton before his committee.
“If the committee had called former Secretary Clinton when Democrats and her attorney first encouraged us to, the committee would not have had possession of the 300 emails we now have or known about her exclusive use of a personal server and email account to conduct official business,” he said.
Republicans asked Clinton to turn over the email server to the State Department inspector general for an independent review. Clinton refused, noting the server’s email was deleted.
In December, Clinton turned over roughly 30,000 emails to the State Department and asked that they be released to the public. State Department officials have said they will release them after they have been reviewed. The State Department has already given Gowdy’s committee 300 Benghazi-related emails.
But Republicans still want independent verification that Clinton has, in fact, turned over all her official emails.