The State Department on Friday released Hillary Clinton’s Libya-related emails from her time as secretary of State, documents spanning 2011 and 2012 that already were provided months ago to a GOP-led House panel probing the 2012 Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead.
The roughly 300 messages are just a portion of roughly 55,000 pages worth of Clinton’s emails. She used an unusual private email server as secretary, but turned the messages over to the State Department in December.
The 2011 and 2012 emails show a broad swath of discussion about Libya both before and after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility that claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
They range across Clinton and aides in communication about Ambassador Stevens’ death the day of the attack; speech preparation; messages making Clinton aware of certain press coverage in the weeks and months that followed; and emails on how then-GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney was addressing the issue, among many topics.
The messages appear to contain no smoking guns that support GOP allegations that Clinton directly brushed off requests and warnings from staff in Libya about the need for more security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
However, there are messages that at least touch upon dangers and violence in Benghazi that GOP aides on the committee flagged Friday, including an April 24, 2011 message forwarded to Clinton warning about hotels there being targeted, and a long August 23, 2012 message to Clinton from longtime ally Sidney Blumenthal about the state of play in Libya.
The communications with top aides and others provide a rare view of the inner workings of State at the highest levels.
In December, after a concussion sustained in a fall caused Clinton to postpone her testimony on Capitol Hill, she joked about the situation in email conversations with top aides.
In one email to State Department aides Tom Nides and William Burns, Clinton joked about her “cracked head” and apologized for not joining them at the testimony on the Hill. “I’m sorry that I cannot be on the Hill today as we had long planned, but very grateful that you both will be,” she wrote. “…So, I’ll be nursing my cracked head and cheering you on as you ‘remain calm and carry on’!”
When Nides responded that he wasn’t looking forward to the hearings, Clinton replied: “Well, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger (as I have rationalized for years), so just survive and you’ll have triumphed!”
In another exchange, aide Cheryl Mills forwarded a transcript from Fox News in which Greta Van Susteren asked Arizona Sen. John McCain, “I believe she has a concussion. What do you think?” (McCain responded that he believed Clinton “is now not physically well enough to testify” and that she would do so the following month.)
“Huma called him and Graham,” Clinton wrote back to Mills. “Also, someone should call Greta VS to thank her for ‘knowing the truth.’”
Also included in the documents are numerous memos sent by longtime Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal, all relating to the post-Benghazi situation in Libya. Previously reported by The New York Times, Clinton would pass the memos along to top State aides such as Jake Sullivan with comments like “fyi” and “pls circulate.”
On Sept. 24, Sullivan forwarded Clinton a full compilation of her comments on the Benghazi attack up until that point. “You never said spontaneous or characterized the motives,” he wrote. “In fact you were careful in your first statement to say we were assessing motive and method.” (Clinton responded only with a line frequent in her email communications: “Pls print.”)
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the email release proves there’s “nothing new here” on Benghazi.
“Hillary Clinton is glad to see the nearly 300 emails provided by the Department to the Select Committee released today to the public,” he said in a statement to National Journal. “The public can now see for themselves there is nothing new here. This release does not change the facts known to the Accountability Review Board and several Congressional committees for over two years about the tragic events in Benghazi.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, the GOP chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the messages are an incomplete record and noted he’s still waiting for State to produce messages from Clinton’s top aides when she was secretary.
“[T]hese email messages are just one piece of information that cannot be completely evaluated or fully understood without the total record. The Committee is working to collect and evaluate all of the relevant and material information necessary to evaluate the full range of issues in context,” he said.
Democrats used the document release to put political pressure on Republicans to schedule a public hearing with Clinton.
They have accused Republicans of delaying her testimony in order to push the high-profile event deeper into the campaign season. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democratic member of the Benghazi committee, said the emails show “no evidence to support the conspiracy theories advanced about the Benghazi attacks—there was no stand down order, no gun running and no interference with security by the Secretary.”
“The Select Committee must now schedule a public hearing with Secretary Clinton so committee members can ask whatever questions they have about her emails, or the events of that tragic day,” said Schiff, who is also the top Democrat on the Select Committee on Intelligence, in a statement Friday.
The State Department intends to produce those messages on a rolling basis as they are reviewed, and is slated to offer a federal judge a schedule for releasing them next week.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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