House Republicans and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton sparred Saturday over the details of having her testify publicly before a House panel investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The tensions came one day after a report from the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general that a personal e-mail account used by Clinton when she was secretary of state contained some information that should have been classified and secured. The inspector general said no e-mails reviewed by its office were labeled as classified.
The latest squabble centered on the ground rules for an expected public hearing with Clinton before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The committee is investigating actions taken by Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, following the attacks that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others dead.
Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, said on Saturday that Clinton had reached an agreement with the panel’s chairman, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to testify on Oct. 22.
The claim was quickly challenged by the committee’s spokesman, Jamal Ware, who said there was no deal yet and that the two sides were still hashing out the timing and scope of Clinton’s appearance. Ware said in an e-mailed statement that negotiations were “ongoing” between the committee and Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall.
Holding a hearing in late October would come little more than three months before voters head to the polls to start choosing the Democratic nominee for president. Clinton leads her nearest Democratic competitor by about 40 percentage points, according to an average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics.
Some of the tension apparently has to do with how far the committee can go in questioning Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account and server while she was secretary of state. The account contained some information that should have been classified and transmitted over a secure network, according to a report from the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general, Charles McCullough III.
The federal watchdog asked the FBI to review whether potentially classified material had been jeopardized during a State Department review of the documents in preparation for releasing them publicly.
The FBI referral followed a June 29 memo that McCullough and the State Department’s inspector general sent to Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, saying that hundreds of e-mails in Clinton’s private account may improperly have contained classified material.
The Benghazi panel believes that Clinton’s e-mail arrangement falls within the scope of its jurisdiction, Ware said.
“The committee will not, now or ever, accept artificial limitations on its congressionally-directed jurisdiction or efforts to meet the responsibilities assigned to the committee by the House of Representatives,” Ware said.
Merrill said in response that Clinton’s camp has “made clear that we understand e-mails are in their jurisdiction. So unless the committee now believes e-mails are no longer in its jurisdiction, we are in agreement.”
More Clinton e-mails are expected to be released by the State Department next week, Merrill also said.
“We want to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed as these e-mails are reviewed while not unduly delaying the release of her e-mails,” he said. “We particularly do not want their release to be hampered by bureaucratic infighting among the intelligence community.”