Hillary Clinton Is ‘Happy’ to Answer More Questions From the Benghazi Committee

Clinton’s lawyers and Rep. Trey Gowdy’s committee are engaged in a polite battle of letters.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
April 22, 2015, 1:47 p.m.

Hillary Clinton wants to clear the air.

At least, that’s what her lawyers signaled on Wednesday afternoon, when they sent a letter to the House Select Committee on Benghazi expressing Clinton’s willingness to testify before the committee about the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and about her email use.

“There is no reason to delay her appearance or to have her testify in a private interview,” her lawyer, David Kendall, wrote. “While Secretary Clinton has testified before committees in both the House and the Senate about the tragic events in Benghazi, she has made clear that she will voluntarily testify publicly again before the Select Committee and, at that time, is happy to continue to answer any questions the Select Committee may have about her email use.”

Last month, Rep. Trey Gowdy—the chair of the Benghazi Committee—requested that Clinton sit down for a private interview “to better understand decisions the secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records.”

Since taking the reins from Rep. Darrell Issa on investigating the fallout from Benghazi, Gowdy has tried to remake the committee’s mission as thoughtful and thorough, rather than an endeavor that Democrats have tried to brand as a partisan witch hunt.

In a statement released shortly after Clinton’s lawyer sent the letter to Gowdy, Democrats on the committee said Republicans would rather interview Clinton in private so they could have more control over how her answers are made public. Unlike a public hearing, such an interview would be conducted behind closed doors.

“Republicans could then selectively leak excerpts from the interview transcript out of context, just as former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa did on a routine basis. Secretary Clinton would not have a copy of the transcript to rebut those claims,” the Democrats’ press release read.

There is an odd alignment of interests—or at least publicly professed interests—in this storyline. Both Clinton’s representatives and the committee want to prove they are eager for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible. For Clinton, it makes sense: better to try to dispel criticism and deal with the inevitable negative headlines before the 2016 presidential election is in full force.

Democrats insist that Republicans’ resistance to a public hearing is a strategic move to drag out the investigation well into election season. Earlier on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the findings of the Benghazi Committee’s report may not be released until a few months before the presidential election. A spokesman told the Associated Press that Gowdy “wants this done by the end of the year,” but that resistance from the administration could set back the report’s progress.

“Rather than drag out this political charade into 2016 and selectively leak portions of a closed-door interview, the Committee should schedule the public hearing, make her records public, and refocus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, a ranking member on the committee, said in a statement.

In his own statement, Gowdy shot back that delaying Clinton’s second testimony has been for the good of the investigation.

“I appreciate Mr. Kendall’s timely response to our letter but respectfully disagree with his assertion former Secretary Clinton has answered all questions surrounding the unusual email arrangement she had with herself,” Gowdy said. “If the Committee had called former Secretary Clinton when Democrats and her attorney first encouraged us to, the committee would not have had possession of the 300 emails we now have or known about her exclusive use of a personal server and email account to conduct official business.”

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