House GOP ready to zero in on Blumenthal

House GOP ready to zero in on Blumenthal
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The House Select Committee on Benghazi is about to face one of its biggest tests since its inception.

On Tuesday, the panel will depose Sidney Blumenthal, who served as an informal adviser to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton backs Georgia governor hopeful on eve of primary Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Press: Why Trump should thank FBI MORE when she was President Obama's first Secretary of State.

While the 12-member select committee has conducted dozens of witness interviews since it was first created in 2014, Blumenthal's closed-door appearance signals the panel is ratcheting up its probe by speaking to a member of the 2016 presidential frontrunner's inner-circle.

“We’re going to have a series of questions, I don’t want to get into what we’re going to ask him, but we’re going to ask him all kinds of questions,” Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan pressed by conservatives to run for Speaker Talk of unproven FBI 'plant' in Trump campaign circulates among Republicans Farm bill revolt could fuel Dreamer push MORE (R-Ohio) told The Hill.

He said that staff attorneys “are going to be doing most of it” before noting panel chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyNunes says he won't meet with DOJ officials until they hand over documents Scalise: FBI needs to stop ‘running around on witch hunts’ Talk of unproven FBI 'plant' in Trump campaign circulates among Republicans MORE (R-.S.C) is a former federal prosecutor and that most members on the GOP side possess some kind of legal background and could “pass questions” along.

“I think you’ll see members participate,” Jordan predicted.

The select committee’s top Democrat is ambivalent about the much-awaited appearance.

“I don’t know what [the Republicans] want to get. I didn’t call him in. They called him. You should ask them what they want; I’m there to listen,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) told The Hill.

Here are three topics the GOP is likely to press with Blumenthal. 


The State Department last month made public about 300 emails from Clinton’s private email server that showed she received about 25 memos from Blumenthal regarding Libya while she was secretary of State.

The emails showed that Clinton forwarded some of Blumenthal's missives to her senior staff without identifying him as the source.

While mostly tight-lipped about potential lines of questioning, Jordan said members would probably ask “how he compiled his intelligence.”

Panelists might also ask Blumenthal if he had any conflict of interests between his business dealings in Libya and the intelligence he passed along.

THE SEPT. 12, 2012 MEMO

Out of the 25 missives Blumenthal sent to Clinton, one from Sept. 12 is sure to garner a lot of attention from panel members and staff.

In it, he blamed the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans on a “what many devout Libyan viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America.”

Blumenthal sent another memo the next day citing “sensitive sources” who believed it was an act of terrorism.

Members will likely inquire who those sources were and how they were able to change Blumenthal’s mind so quickly.


Earlier this year the Benghazi panel discovered that Clinton used a personal email server while helming the State Department.

The revelation prompted Gowdy to initially insist that Clinton appear twice before the select committee. The first session, to address the email controversy, would take place behind close doors, followed by an open hearing on the 2012 assault.

However, Clinton's attorney pushed back hard against that idea, arguing that one public appearance would be enough.

Gowdy eventually declared that Clinton’s testimony would be delayed until the panel receives all documents potentially relevant to the attacks from the State Department.

Republicans will be sure to capitalize on the appearance of one of Clinton’s confidants who messaged the private address to ask what he knew about the personal email server and what, if any, security safeguards it might have had in place.

Critics have argued that Clinton's private server was vulnerable to hackers and posed a security risk.