Democrats do damage control

Democrats do damage control
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Democrats are scrambling to try and limit the damage from the escalating controversy over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE’s use of personal email accounts while she was secretary of State.

With their likely presidential nominee now facing congressional subpoenas, Democrats began to circle the wagons Thursday, seizing on Clinton’s statement late Wednesday that she wants her emails released to the public as soon as possible.

Rep. Elijah Cumming (D-Md.), the ranking member of the special House panel that is investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, suggested Clinton is going to above and beyond the call of duty with her pledge.

“As far as I am aware, no other Cabinet secretary in history has ever called for the release of his or her emails — in their entirety and throughout his or her tenure,” Cummings said in a statement on Thursday. “I commend Secretary Clinton's decision.”

Another Democrat on the select panel, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP strategist confronts ex-Trump staffer: ‘I’m sick of you guys making excuses for him’ Shepard Smith goes after Trump for not condemning Russia in tweets Trump: Why didn't Obama 'do something about Russian meddling?' MORE (D-Calif.), noted that Clinton “provided 55,000 pages of emails” to the State Department last year, and said those documents should be released to the public as soon as possible to silence the Benghazi “conspiracy theorists.”

"There is no evidence that the Secretary called for a 'stand down' order, interfered with requests for additional security or took any other action suggested by the conspiracy theorists. The quicker these emails can be made public, the sooner we can put these myths to rest once and for all," said Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Republicans moved quickly Thursday to turn up the heat on Clinton over the personal emails, with the Republican National Committee (RNC) asking the State Department to open an independent investigation into whether she broke the law.

“The American public deserves to know whether one of its top-ranking public official’s actions violated federal law,” RNC chief counsel John Phillippe wrote in a letter to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

The email controversy erupted this week after The New York Times revealed that Clinton used a personal account exclusively while serving as secretary of State, effectively shielding her correspondence from federal records laws.

The Associated Press is considering legal action because her use of a personal account has prevented the State Department from fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests.

“We believe it’s critically important that government officials and agencies be held accountable to the voters,” Karen Kaiser, the AP’s general counsel, told The New York Times.

Republicans on the Benghazi panel say Clinton was using more than one personal email account at State, and have seized on reports that she was using a personal server registered to her home in New York.

“You do not need a law degree to understand how troubling this is,” Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand GOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban MORE (R-S.C.), the leader of the panel, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Gowdy rebuffed Democratic calls for the panel to release emails already provided by Clinton, saying he has no way of knowing if the records are complete.

“Whatever exists today could be contradicted by what’s produced tomorrow,” Gowdy said.

Cummings said the Benghazi investigation was morphing into a “fishing expedition to try to get all kinds of documents related to Hillary Clinton."

“I did not want to believe it, but everything I’ve seen so far has led me to believe that this is an effort to go after Hillary Clinton. Period,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

While Democrats are rallying to Clinton’s defense, some in the party are faulting her slow-footed response, with some questioning whether she has learned the lessons from her failed presidential run in 2008.

"I think the real issue here ... however this turns out, this problem is being exacerbated by the lack of answers from the Clinton campaign, or the nascent campaign, and it would be good to get out there and answer these questions," David Axelrod, President Obama’s former campaign manager, said Wednesday night on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell."

"Why did she used a separate email? How did she secure that email? Was there another email through which she communicated with people?” Axelrod asked.

“By not answering these questions, they are allowing this story to fester in ways that are unhelpful. So lack of speed kills in this case."

The White House has sought to distance itself from the Clinton controversy, with press secretary Josh Earnest deferring to the State Department on the email-related questions.

Earnest said Wednesday that he couldn't account for conversations between the State Department and White House officials regarding email policy, adding that "the expectation of the president is that everybody throughout his administration is acting in compliance with the Federal Records Act."

A State Department spokeswoman said officials would review Clinton’s emails “as quickly as possible” while going through the “normal process” for releasing emails from top officials.

"Given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete," Marie Harf said.