Hillary Clinton’s promise to provide greater transparency around her State Department-era emails hasn’t satisfied the Republican-controlled House Select Committee on Benghazi, with its spokesman insisting Thursday the committee will press forth with its plan to subpoena Clinton’s correspondence. Democrats, meanwhile, sought to defend the former secretary of state, pointing to examples of several 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls using private email to conduct business.
The former secretary of state late Wednesday finally weighed in on the email controversy that has consumed her since Monday night, saying she had asked the State Department to release the 55,000 pages of emails she’s provided from her time as secretary of state.
“I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible,” Clinton wrote on Twitter. A spokeswoman for the department said it would comply, but the process would take “several months” to complete and Secretary of State John Kerry, while on a trip to Saudi Arabia, assured reporters that his department would move as quickly as possible to process the documents.
Still, Republicans say it’s not enough.Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs the select committee investigating the death of four American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, is far from satisfied. “The former Secretary’s tweet does not answer questions about why this was not done when she left office, the integrity of the emails while she controlled them, the scheme to conceal them, or the failure to provide them in logical course,” Gowdy spokesperson Jamal Ware said.
Before Clinton made the announcement, Gowdy subpoenaed the State Department Wednesday evening for more of Clinton’s emails.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has had a friendly relationship with Clinton since they served together in the Senate, said Thursday that he thought she violated the law. “I’m not a legal expert on this – but it appears to many that it’s a violation of a law that was passed a few years ago,” he told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell. “So I think this is serious. And I’m willing to give her or anyone who defends her the benefit of defending it or explaining it, but on its face, it seems to be rather serious.”
Rep. Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “deeply troubled” by Clinton’s email habits. “The allegations that Secretary Clinton sought to sidestep the law merit robust scrutiny, he said in a statement.”
And House Speaker John Boehner criticized Clinton and the Obama administration in general on transparency in several blog posts written by his staff. “It doesn’t matter if the server was in Foggy Bottom, Chappaqua or Bora Bora. The Benghazi Select Committee needs to see all of these emails, because the American people deserve all of the facts,” Boehner himself said.
But Democrats contend that Clinton violated no rules or regulations by using her personal email account, and counter that she’s actually being unusually transparent.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, praised Clinton’s move as nearly unprecedented. “As far as I am aware, no other cabinet secretary in history has ever called for the release of his or her emails,” he said Thursday morning. The State Department has also said that Clinton is the only former secretary of state to have so far turned over records the department requested.
The vast majority – nine out of 10 – emails Clinton sent went to someone with a “.gov” email address, meaning they would have been archived automatically, according to a Clinton aide.
The controversy has put the Obama administration in an awkward spot, both at the White House and the State Department, which have been forced to contend with difficult questions for two days straight. And the White House’s top lawyer may not have known about emails email habits until the Benghazi committee discovered it, an anonymous source told the AP.
With no campaign organization to defend the likely 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful, the task has fallen to outside groups and, on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee, who circulated a list of Republicans including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who also used private email accounts.
“If Republicans want to claim their outrage is legitimate then they should be downright fuming about those in their own party. Why did Bush have a private server? Why did Walker’s staff mix official and campaign business on a secret email system?” DNC press secretary Holly Shulman wrote.
It’s the latest development in an quickly moving controversy over Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account while she served as secretary of state, a fact discovered by the Benghazi committee months ago but made public only this week.