Amid furor, Benghazi chairman plans new release of Clinton emails

Amid furor, Benghazi chairman plans new release of Clinton emails

Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are launching a counterattack in the political battle over the panel, releasing portions of additional emails to and from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyGowdy: Sarah Sanders doesn't get say whether Comey broke the law Trump condemns Rice's unmasking: 'What she did was wrong' Sessions, Coats push for permanent renewal of controversial surveillance law MORE (R-S.C.) wrote a scathing 13-page letter Thursday, accusing Democrats of repeatedly using the panel to advance a political message and of stonewalling the GOP’s efforts to “follow the facts wherever they may lead.” 

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“Simply because you have chosen to play politics with this committee and the State Department has chosen to play politics by shielding its former secretary at the expense of the truth does not mean that this committee was founded on politics, is based on politics or will veer off course due to the political actions and allegations of others,” he wrote.

While blasting Democrats’ plans to release previously secret testimony from a top Clinton aide, Gowdy warned that he would soon release 1,500 pages of new emails concerning Libya — including "a small number" about the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound — which had recently been handed over by the State Department. Snippets of those emails were released in Thursday’s letter.

“The contents of these emails are quite remarkable,” Gowdy said in his letter.

Nearly half of the messages involved longtime Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal, which Gowdy called “simply astonishing.”

“The fact that former Secretary Clinton relied so heavily on an individual for the Libyan intervention, her quintessential foreign policy initiative, whom the White House explicitly prohibited from working at the State Department is mind boggling.”

Among other emails between Clinton and her “de facto political advisor,” Gowdy said, were multiple daily messages with “unvetted intelligence” — much of it from a former CIA officer — about situation on the ground in Libya during the uprising there. 

Blumenthal pushed for an aggressive U.S. policy in Libya, according to the email portions that Gowdy released, and also advocated on behalf of a consulting company to which he had ties.

He also passed along information that Clinton should have identified as classified, Gowdy said, since it contained the name of a source of U.S. intelligence. Blumenthal noted that the name came from someone “currently at CIA.”

Blumenthal has already testified once in a closed-door committee meeting, but the new emails “raise the likelihood that the committee will need to bring back Sidney Blumenthal to reopen his deposition,” Gowdy warned.

Emails from Blumenthal are littered among the thousands that the State Department has already released from Clinton’s private email setup. Many of them offer seemingly unsolicited advice about policy options, as well as text of news articles. In one, Blumenthal called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “lazy” and an “alcoholic.” 

Thursday’s letter from Gowdy comes days after the GOP was put on the defensive over comments that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made linking the Benghazi panel to Hillary Clinton's sliding poll numbers.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) — the panel's top Democrat — called Gowdy’s letter “a defensive and desperate attempt to save face” in the wake of a “terrible week.”

“His new proposal to selectively release yet another subset of emails reveals his obsession with Secretary Clinton and no new information about the Benghazi attacks,” Cummings said in a statement.

“If Chairman Gowdy wants to put out more of Mr. Blumenthal’s emails with the Secretary, why is he blocking the release of Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition transcript in which he answered hundreds of questions from Republicans about his emails?”

Earlier this week, committee Democrats announced that they would release the closed-door testimony of another Clinton aide, Cheryl Mills, in an escalation of the committee’s arm-wrestling.

On Thursday, Gowdy said that he would not directly respond to the Democrats’ letter.

“[Y]ou alone bear full responsibility for any consequences flowing from such an improper release,” he instead wrote. 

Gowdy said that Republicans would release the new Clinton emails after giving Democrats and the State Department five days to explain why they shouldn’t. That will make them public in time for Clinton’s Oct. 22 public hearing before the committee. 

This story was updated at 2:25 p.m.