On Tuesday, the House Select Benghazi Committee formally summoned Hillary Clinton to testify about her private email scandal no later than May 1.
In a letter to Clinton’s attorney David Kendall, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who chairs the committee, said the committee believes Clinton’s email arrangement was “highly unusual, if not unprecedented,” and her “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.” Gowdy said even though Clinton decided not to give up her server to a third-party arbiter, the committee is “committed to reviewing and considering every document related to the work the House of Representatives charged us with doing.”
“Toward that end and because of the Secretary’s unique arrangement with herself as it relates to public records during and after her tenure as Secretary of State, this Committee is left with no alternative but to request Secretary Clinton appear before this Committee for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records,” Gowdy wrote. “The Committee is willing to schedule the interview at a time convenient for Secretary Clinton, but no later than May 1, 2015.”
Gowdy said the “Committee believes a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary 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.”
He also added that “Clinton’s refusal to allow the Inspector General to ensure the public record is complete is not only disappointing but portends to delay the ability of our Committee to complete its work as expeditiously as possible.”
“We, therefore, urge the Secretary to reconsider her position and allow a neutral, detached, and independent arbiter ensure the public record is complete and all materials relevant to the Committee’s work have been provided to the Committee,” he continued. “If the Secretary continues to reject the offer of a neutral review, the House of Representatives as a whole will need to consider its next steps. As you know the production of documents made to the Select Committee represents a very small portion of the total public record housed in the Secretary’s possession until recently. As such, other committees of Congress as well as the media and the public at large have equities in the Secretary’s public record.”
Gowdy reiterated that it “is technically possible in many instances to recover electronic information notwithstanding whether it has been ‘deleted’ or overwritten,” and “it is precisely for this reason a neutral and objective party must have access to the server and related equipment to identify information potentially responsive to relevant laws and investigative requests.”
“Once there is a reasonable assurance all documents in the Secretary’s care, custody and control related to what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi have been shared with the Committee, we will be in a position to schedule her appearance in a public hearing to constructively discuss these topics,” he said.
In the meantime, Gowdy said “many questions and details about the arrangement remain unanswered,” and “these questions relate to”:
- her decision to bypass an official government email account;
- whether she affirmatively turned over any relevant records during the pendency of the Accountability Review Board investigation or at any time after Congress first began investigating the Benghazi attack until December 2014;
- her decision to retain those records upon separation from the Department of State;
- the methodology by which these emails were subsequently searched for evidence of official records; and
- her decision to delete certain emails.