Gowdy Says He Doesn't Want Benghazi Committee's Probe to Stretch Into 2016

His comments come as a Clinton spokesman seeks to clarify how she sorted her messages before turning some over to the State Department.

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, speaks during a news conference at the United Nations (UN) in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Representative Trey Gowdy said Sunday he doesn't want the House Select Committee on Benghazi's work—which has now expanded to include a look at Hillary Clinton's e-mail practices—to become a focus of the presidential contest.

“I would like to be through as quickly as possible,” the South Carolina Republican leading the committee told NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “I have no interest, zero interest, in you and I having this conversation in 2016.”

But, Gowdy said, Clinton's delay in disclosing that she used only a personal e-mail address to conduct business as secretary of state has slowed the committee down.

After Clinton publicly defended her e-mail practices last week, Gowdy said he would call her to testify twice, once about her e-mail and once about the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Gowdy said he remains focused on the circumstances surrounding the attack, adding he would also like to call former CIA Director David Petraeus.

“She is a very important part of understanding what happened in Libya and Benghazi,” he said, but “she's not even a central focus.”

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California, who also serves on the Benghazi committee, disputed Gowdy's comments, saying the committee hasn't taken up Clinton's offer to testify yet for political reasons.

“They wanted to put off her testimony as far into the presidential cycle as possible,” Schiff said on Fox News Sunday. “The whole purpose of this committee is really Secretary Clinton.”

Questions surround server, release of e-mails

Also speaking on Fox News Sunday, Gowdy said the House of Representatives might have to subpoena the the private server that Clinton used if she wouldn't turn it over to a third party who could review her claim that about 30,000 now-deleted messages were personal and unrelated to government business. (Unlike committees, the House can subpoena personal property.)

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said on CBS's Face the Nation that Clinton's lawyers have asked him and Gowdy to release the e-mails they have from her.

“Hopefully Trey will agree to that and make that happen,” said Cummings. Gowdy has said he won't release the messages because he is not sure if they are a complete set.

Clinton has said she wants the State Department to release her e-mails to the public after the department finishes reviewing them.

Clinton aide defends review

Also Sunday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill sought to clarify how she sorted her messages before turning over the government-related ones to the State Department. Every message was read, he said.

Clinton's office had described the process in a “fact sheet” released Tuesday after she held a press conference. The sheet said reviewers searched her messages by keywords and senders, among other criteria.

“Wanting the public to understand how robust of a search was conducted, the fact sheet laid out several examples of the methods used by the reviewers to double and triple check they were capturing everything,” Merrill said in an e-mail. “It was not meant to be taken as a list of every approach performed to ensure thoroughness. Those subsequent steps were in addition to reading them all, not in lieu of reading them all.” 

House Republicans set to return

More details on the direction of House Republican reviews and inquiries into Clinton's e-mails are expected this week as Republican leaders and rank-and-file members return to Washington Monday after a week-long break. Those details could come on Tuesday, when Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants typically hold a news conference after a closed-door session with their Republican conference.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah already announced last week that his panel “has a long history of investigating violations of the Federal Records Act and we will continue looking into this matter to ensure that all records were properly preserved in accordance with the law.”

Jennifer Epstein and Billy House contributed to this report.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE