Benghazi chairman kicks off Blumenthal testimony

Benghazi chairman kicks off Blumenthal testimony

The head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi said on Tuesday that lawmakers have every right to scrutinize the correspondence between former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE and Sidney Blumenthal as the deposition of her former adviser began.

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“Given the volume and, frankly, the details of the correspondence between this witness and former Secretary Clinton it’s important for the committee to probe the depth, breadth and, frankly, the reliability of that information that he passed on,” Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions Trump says Gowdy can't join his legal team 'for a couple months' MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters before Blumenthal’s deposition.

Gowdy said it was “noteworthy” that no congressional inquiry into the deadly 2012 siege at a U.S. compound in Libya had uncovered the memos between Blumenthal and the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, including the roughly 60 Blumenthal produced late last week.

Gowdy said he would leave it up to observers “whether there was a failure to produce on the former secretary’s part or failure to produce on the Department of State’s behalf.”

“Clearly, the committee should have gotten this information sooner,” he added before heading into the closed-door meeting, which is expected to last most of Tuesday.

Gowdy ignored shouted questions about what information the newly disclosed emails contained.

During a break later in the day, Gowdy smiled and said, "It's going," when asked about the Blumenthal interview.

Blumenthal, accompanied by counsel, declined to speak to the media before heading into the private session.

After more than an hour of in the room with lawmakers, Blumenthal emerged, saying the tone inside was "civil."

Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTop Democrats warn against withdrawing from treaty that allows observation flights over Russia This year, let's cancel the Nobel Prize in economics Pentagon space agency to request .6 billion over five years: report MORE (D-Wash.), who attended the deposition for about 30 minutes, said "the investigation's not going, I think, in a productive direction.”

Smith, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said Blumenthal was only "tangentially" involved with the U.S. mission in Libya. He added that he had been informed about the new cache of emails and said "they don't really differ in any substantial way" from those that are already public.

The State Department last month released nearly 300 emails from Clinton’s private server that showed she received about 25 memos from Blumenthal regarding Libya while she was secretary of State, including one that blamed the Benghazi attacks on an Internet video depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The day after that email, Blumenthal sent another memo to Clinton citing "sensitive sources" who believed it was an act of terrorism.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats see John Bolton as potential star witness Top State Department official arrives for testimony in impeachment probe The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy MORE (D-Calif.) chalked the delay up to "rolling and varying document requests" by the GOP-controlled panel.

He said Republicans continue to "move the goal posts," adding that the original request focused on Benghazi and then was broadened to include all of Libya.

"Who knows, by this time next year, it may be all of Africa," Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters before going into the closed-door session.

He suggested that panel Democrats would use their time to ask if Blumenthal "has any information about the events" of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that the committee wasn't aware of.

However, he predicted that was unlikely, because Blumenthal "wasn't present" and had no "firsthand information" about the siege.

“If this witness weren’t close to the Clintons, there is no way he’d be here today," Schiff said.

Updated at 12:18 p.m.