Benghazi panel challenges State after releasing 60 Blumenthal emails

The House Select Committee on Benghazi on Monday released roughly 60 emails that former Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham Clinton Clinton's court shortlist emerges Mark Cuban: I will vote for Clinton Sunday shows preview: Convention cleanup, Russian intrigue MORE adviser Sidney Blumenthal sent to the secretary of State during her tenure.

Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyTrump is right about one thing Benghazi Report and Hillary: What it means for Philadelphia Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (R-S.C.) challenged the State Department to say whether or not it already possessed the messages from Blumenthal, which were sent to Clinton’s personal email server while she served as the nation’s top diplomat.

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"These emails should have been part of the public record when Secretary Clinton left office and at a bare minimum included when the State Department released Clinton's self-selected records on Libya. For that reason, the committee has made the decision to release the latest set of Clinton's public records unearthed by the committee,” he said in a statement.

Gowdy gave the department until the end of the day on Monday to determine whether it has copies of the 60 emails.

State said it is working “right now to determine” if any of Blumenthal’s memos match the nearly 300 emails from Clinton’s private email server that it made public last month, spokesman John Kirby said Monday during a press briefing.

That initial batch showed Clinton received about 25 memos from Blumenthal regarding Libya while she was secretary of State.

Kirby said he didn't have a complete inventory available but that a “cursory look” indicates “there is some overlap” between the two caches of documents.

He brushed off questions about whether the select committee was “moving the goal posts” of its investigation, but said that if the “task lists grows bigger” it will take longer for the department to respond to the panel’s document requests.

Clinton, who is now running for president, has said that she turned over all work-related emails to State before erasing the remaining personal messages from her server.

In releasing the emails, Gowdy rejected a request from the panel’s Democrats and Blumenthal’s attorney to release a transcript of the nearly nine-hour long deposition that Blumenthal gave the select committee last week.

“Releasing transcripts can impact the recollections of other witnesses, jeopardize the efficacy of the investigation, alert witnesses to lines of inquiry best not made public, and publicize personal information,” Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, wrote in a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the panel’s top Democrat.

Gowdy said he would call a nonbusiness meeting of the select committee to discuss why Blumenthal’s transcript “should be treated differently from all others previously interviewed and all others to come.”

In a statement, Cummings slammed Gowdy for releasing the emails but not the deposition.

"Before today, Chairman Gowdy had not officially released a single email from a single witness in this entire investigation, which has lasted more than a year. Now, he has apparently decided that this one witness is so critical that his emails — and his alone — must be released,” he said.

Gowdy, however, “refuses to release Mr. Blumenthal's deposition transcript, which includes his responses to hundreds of questions posed by Republicans about these very same emails and puts them in proper context.”

“By the Chairman's own admission, these emails have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi, and their selective release demonstrates the Select Committee's singular focus on attacking Hillary Clinton and her bid for president,” according to Cummings.

Blumenthal's attorney, former U.S. deputy attorney general James Cole, said that given the "unprecedented nature" of Monday's document release "it's imperative" the panel also make last week's deposition public.

"Only by releasing the transcript can the Committee provide context to the emails and clarify the misconceptions and mischaracterizations that have been allowed to permeate the record," Cole wrote Monday in a letter to Gowdy.

Blumenthal turned the email messages over to the select committee on June 12.

Last month, the State Department released nearly 300 emails from Clinton’s private email server that showed she received about 25 memos from Blumenthal regarding Libya while she was secretary.

During his marathon deposition last week, Blumenthal revealed he did not actually write or vet any of the messages he sent to Clinton. The memos were authored by Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA official who was on the ground in Libya.

The nearly 180 pages of emails released Monday stretch from February 2011 to December 2012. They cite intelligence from a number of sources, including sources inside the Libyan transitional government, about security conditions on the ground during and after the country’s civil war.

The memos also include a number of press clippings written about the conflict.

The batch of emails include one message, previously released, that blamed the 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans on a "sacrilegious" Internet video depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

Blumenthal sent another memo the next day citing "sensitive sources" that believed the attack was an act of terrorism.

Speaking to reporters last week, Cummings said the messages handed over by Blumenthal contained “no smoking gun.”

Gowdy himself also hinted that the messages did not shed any new light on the deadly assault, describing them as “eerily similar” to emails the select committee had previously received.

—This story was first posted at 12:30 p.m. and has been updated.