The partisan battle over Hillary Clinton’s private emails reignited Wednesday after the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi essentially accused the former secretary of state of lying about her private account -- a claim the Democratic presidential candidate's allies dismiss as wrong and a politically-motivated "stunt."
Questions about the private email server Clinton used exclusively as secretary of State have been dogging her for months, and she hoped to put them to rest in a CNN interview Tuesday. “I’ve never had a subpoena,” Clinton said when asked about whether it was right to delete emails while facing a subpoena. “Let’s take a deep breath here. Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs the committee investigating the Benghazi attack, called the claim “inaccurate” Wednesday, releasing a copy of the subpoena he issued in March for Clinton’s communications related to the attack.
“The committee has issued several subpoenas, but I have not sought to make them public," Gowdy said in a statement. “I would not make this one public now, but after Secretary Clinton falsely claimed the committee did not subpoena her, I have no choice in order to correct the inaccuracy.”
The subpoena names Clinton and asks her to turn over emails on four narrow topics, all related to the attack, the diplomatic compound in Libya, and any weapons imported or exported to Libya.
But Clinton’s campaign and her allies dismissed Gowdy’s claim as meaningless, noting the subpoena was issued after Clinton turned out more than 55,000 pages of work-related emails to the State Department for review, not while she was reviewing which emails should be preserved or deleted.
“She was asked about her decision to not to retain her personal emails after providing all those that were work-related, and the suggestion was made that a subpoena was pending at the time. That was not accurate. In fact, Trey Gowdy did not issue a subpoena until March, months after she she’d done that review,” said Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill of the interview.
He added that the subpoena asked only emails pertaining to the attack.
Meanwhile, the Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the Benghazi committee, dismissed the Gowdy’s release as a “nothing but a stunt.”
“Obviously everyone -- including Secretary Clinton -- knows Chairman Gowdy issued a subpoena back in March because he also issued a press release about it at the time,” Cummings said, pointing to numerous press reports press reports at the time.
Regardless of the timing, Gowdy called into question Clinton's decision to the delete the remaining 33,000 emails on her private server after turning over the work-related documents. “By her own admission she did not delete or destroy emails until the fall of 2014, well after this Committee had been actively engaged in securing her emails from the Department of State. For 20 months, it was not too burdensome or cumbersome for the Secretary to house records on her personal server but mysteriously in the fall of 2014 she decided to delete and attempt to permanently destroy those same records,” Gowdy said, calling the deletion “curious.”