In the wake of new revelations last month that President Obama’s first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, used only a personal email account hosted on a private server to conduct official government business, Speaker Boehner and Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) called for Secretary Clinton to turn over her server to an independent, neutral, third-party arbiter who could determine which emails belonged to U.S. taxpayers and should be maintained as public records according to the law. Many members of the news media agreed that this would be a fair way to ensure transparency and accountability.
Last Friday, however, Secretary Clinton’s lawyer informed Chairman Gowdy that there was no need to turn over the server, because all of her emails from her time as Secretary of State had been erased. In other words, any Benghazi-related emails or documents she unilaterally chose not to give to the State Department have been deleted.
“[I]t appears she made the decision [to wipe her server] after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,” Chairman Gowdy said.
As the Washington Examiner has detailed, this is the latest example of Secretary Clinton and the Obama State Department obstructing and delaying appropriate congressional oversight. From just after the September 2012 attack in Libya, all the way to August 2014, the administration defied multiple subpoenas and requests, never providing Congress with “a single email to or from Clinton” regarding Benghazi. It was only after the Benghazi Select Committee forced the State Department to obtain her emails that less than 10 were turned over. These revealed her private email account. It took yet another committee request to receive an additional 850 pages of relevant emails in February this year – meaning that she withheld important information for nearly two and a half years.
To recap: Secretary Clinton took unprecedented steps to set up a private email account and ensure her employer, the U.S. government, did not have possession of any of her work-related emails. When Congress issued a subpoena for Benghazi-related documents, she did not comply. When the State Department, at the request of the Benghazi Select Committee, asked her late last year to turn over all of her work emails – public records according to the law – she and her lawyers alone decided which emails to provide. Then they destroyed everything – including roughly 30,000 other messages.
You would never guess, but this is the same Secretary Clinton who tweeted last month, “I want the public to see my email.” That’s an absurd statement given the facts.
This is also the same Secretary Clinton who:
- Still has not said whether she signed a routine form certifying that she turned over all official records and emails to the federal government at the end of her employment, as required. A State Department spokeswoman said they’re “fairly certain she did not.” What’s Secretary Clinton’s side of the story?
- Claimed she used a single, personal email address for work because she didn’t want to carry more than one device. The Associated Press reported this week that she “e-mailed her staff on an iPad as well as a BlackBerry while secretary of state.”
- Assured the public in a news conference that she “did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.” This week, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the Benghazi Select Committee, contradicted Secretary Clinton, saying, “All of her official emails should be released to the American people. ... There are going to be some that are classified and those that are classified—then show those to a bipartisan group of members of Congress.”
- Justified her actions by noting that “the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.” We now know that she knew this was never true, because at least four of her top aides also used private Clinton-provided email accounts to correspond with her.
So what’s next in the search for the truth about Benghazi?
The subpoena for Secretary Clinton’s emails issued last month by the Select Committee still stands, and as Chairman Gowdy reiterated in a letter to her lawyer this week, she should still allow a neutral, independent third-party to inspect the server and identify information relevant to the investigation.
“[E]xperts,” according to Politico, “say the messages she deleted from it — or at least portions of them — can almost certainly be recovered” since “permanent deletion is extremely difficult to achieve[.]”
Gowdy also requested that she appear before the Select Committee by May 1 “for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records.”
Secretary Clinton’s extreme secrecy, inaccurate and misleading statements, and the fact that she has gone so far out of her way to hide information from investigators and the public begs the question: why?