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State withheld two Benghazi emails from House investigators

State withheld two Benghazi emails from House investigators
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The State Department has withheld a pair of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Republican legislators target private sector election grants How Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 MORE emails related to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, from congressional investigators.

A spokesman for the House Select Committee confirmed that the panel has not received copies of two Sept. 29, 2012, messages between Clinton, her chief of staff Cheryl Mills, spokesman Philippe Reines and adviser Jake Sullivan.

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The development, first reported by Politico, came to light last week when the State Department responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the conservative group Judicial Watch.

“As non-final drafts, the bodies of these messages consist in their entirety of information that is pre-decisional and deliverable in nature,” State Department official John Hackett wrote in the agency’s court filing, according to Politico.

“Release of this material could reasonably be expected to chill the frank deliberations that occur when senior staff are preparing points or other draft remarks for use by senior Department officials in addressing a matter of public controversy,” he said.

The messages to Clinton, who was then serving as secretary of State, reportedly mention the talking points then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice used on news shows after the siege, when she falsely said the attack developed from a spontaneous protest.

The administration quickly walked back those remarks, but Republican lawmakers accused her and others in the administration of trying to protect President Obama during his reelection campaign by downplaying terrorism’s role in the assault.

The Sept. 29 date of the withheld messages suggests that the conversation may not have been about the talking points themselves, but the brewing controversy around them.

The revelation that two messages were not turned over to Congress is sure to ratchet up tensions between State and Benghazi chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyPompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy The Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election MORE (R-S.C.), who has expressed anger over State’s document production.

On Friday, he ridiculed the 3,600 emails from Rice, Mills and Sullivan the department recently delivered to the panel.

“But you know what we got last week? We got 3,600 pages, half of which were press clippings, including articles about Richard Gere,” he said.

“So if that is their idea of complying with congressional investigations, then we are going to be at this a long time.”

A spokesman for the Benghazi panel Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment and referred to the court filing.