Clinton E-Mails on Benghazi Released by State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her phone at the opening of the Libyan Conference, a meeting of international allies to discuss the next steps for Libya on March 29, 2011 in London, England.

Photo by Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. State Department released on Friday Hillary Clinton’s e-mails related to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, which a supporter said confirms her account to a committee investigating the incident but Republicans dismissed as “self-selected.”

The 296 e-mails are a fraction of more than 30,000 work-related messages Clinton, now a Democratic presidential candidate, turned over from the private e-mail account she used while secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s first term.

Clinton’s use of a private e-mail address and home server in the job has become a focus of a House committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Libya. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a nearby CIA outpost.

The top Democrat on the House Benghazi committee, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said in a statement they contain “no evidence to back up claims that Clinton ordered a stand-down, approved an illicit weapons program, or any other wild allegation Republicans have made for years.”

The Republican-led committee investigating Benghazi, however, said in a statement that the e-mails were selected for release by Clinton’s own lawyers.

Unresolved Questions

“We will not reach any investigative conclusions until our work is complete,” the committee statement said. “But these emails continue to reinforce the fact that unresolved questions and issues remain as it relates to Benghazi.”

Republicans have tried for more than two years and through multiple investigations to prove that Clinton failed to bolster security before the assault, and that she should share blame for the initial, erroneous account provided by the administration of what happened in the incident.

Democrats say the Republican investigations focusing on Clinton are inspired by partisan politics. The State Department is reviewing the remainder of the Clinton e-mails for public release in the coming months.

“The e-mails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in an e-mail.

Prior to their public release, the State Department in February had provided this group of 296 e-mails to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, led by Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican.

Deleted E-Mails

Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 until early 2013, has said through her lawyer that another 31,000 e-mails on her private server that she deemed personal in nature were deleted.

The State Department says the 296 e-mails it turned over to the committee in February, and now posted, are those that were deemed relevant to the Benghazi investigation. The Benghazi committee had asked Clinton to appear before it this month to discuss her e-mails and again in June to be questioned about the Benghazi attacks. Her lawyer, David Kendall, told the panel she would agree to testify once, though not twice.

In response, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Benghazi committee, said he would delay scheduling an appearance by Clinton.

Gowdy also sent a letter to current Secretary of State John Kerry asserting that his department hasn’t turned over all the documents and communications requested -- records and e-mails that go beyond the initial group of about e-mails. The panel also plans to interview other Obama administration officials about the attacks.

Final Report

Gowdy’s committee has said a final report on its findings probably won’t be released until 2016, just months before the presidential election.

Gowdy has said previous investigations into Clinton’s actions surrounding the Benghazi attacks lacked potentially important information.

“Discussing Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of private e-mail with which to conduct public business” is necessary for “discussing the facts surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi,” a letter from Gowdy to Clinton’s attorney said.

Clinton testified before Congress in January 2013 that there was no attempt by the State Department or Obama administration to mislead the public about the Benghazi attack.

She has said she used a private e-mail account as secretary of state for convenience because she didn’t want to carry multiple e-mail devices.

A federal judge this week ruled that the entire collection of Clinton e-mails turned over to the State Department must be made public on a rolling basis instead of waiting for a mass release in January, as the department had proposed.

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