After months of negotiations, the House Select Committee on Benghazi has asked Hillary Clinton to appear in public before the committee twice in coming months.
In a letter sent Thursday to Clinton’s lawyer, committee Chair Trey Gowdy asked Clinton to appear before the committee to discuss her controversial use of a private email account during the week of May 18, and then to appear again during the week of June 18 to discuss the Benghazi terror attacks themselves.
Clinton was secretary of state during the September 2012 Benghazi terror attack, which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and became a major political issue in the 2012 presidential campaign and in the years since.
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Earlier this year, Clinton acknowledged that she exclusively used a private email account to conduct all her business as secretary of state, raising questions about whether she complied with federal record-keeping regulations. The email controversy has become a centerpiece of Republican attacks on the 2016 presidential candidate.
Clinton has previously agreed to testify before the Benghazi committee, and said she wanted to get appearance out of the way as soon as possible. But Gowdy has refused to bring Clinton to his committee until he was assured she had turned over all emails from her personal server relevant to the 2012 terror attack in Libya.
On Wednesday, his office confirmed that the committee would likely not complete its investigation and publish a final report until sometime in 2016.
Democrats, who have charged that Gowdy intentionally delayed the hearing to keep the Benghazi controversy alive deep into the presidential election campaign, saw the delay as proof. "The Gowdy Committee's admission today that it will not finish its investigation until 2016 is the most telling evidence yet that their investigation is solely about playing politics in the 2016 presidential campaign,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said Wednesday.
“This investigation would now be longer than the investigations of Iran-Contra, the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate and 9/11,” he added.
Gowdy denied that charge Thursday. "I don’t want it to come out in 2016. Nothing would suite me more than for the Secretary to come in in May and June and answer our questions, the Administration to cooperate with our document request and the report be written in the Fall of 2015," he told NBC News. But he added: "Frankly I think the burden of persuasion is on her given her email arrangement.
The public hearings are a concession from Gowdy. The Republican had originally wanted the first meeting with Clinton to be a private, transcribed interview. But Clinton’s team feared portions of the interview could be strategically leaked to damage Clinton.
In his letter, Gowdy dismissed Clinton’s team's claim that everything about Benghazi has already been asked and answered. To make his point, Gowdy attached 129 “unanswered questions” just related the issue of Clinton’s email.