Overnight Defense: Benghazi panel challenges State on emails

THE TOPLINE: The House panel investigating the deadly 2012 siege in Benghazi, Libya released 60 emails from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Hillary Clinton touts student suspended over crowded hallway photo: 'John Lewis would be proud' MORE adviser Sidney Blumenthal on Monday and is challenging the State Department on whether it already had those communications.

"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," House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySenate GOP set to ramp up Obama-era probes More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case Sunday shows preview: As states loosen social distancing restrictions, lawmakers address dwindling state budgets MORE (R-S.C.) said in a statement.

"For that reason, the committee has made the decision to release the latest set of Clinton's public records unearthed by the committee."

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Gowdy gave the department until the end of the day on Monday to determine whether it has copies of the 60 emails Blumenthal himself turned over to the select committee earlier this month.

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 during a press briefing.

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

Clinton, a 2016 presidential candidate has said that she turned over all work-related emails to State before erasing the remaining personal messages from her server.

Gowdy also 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.

The nearly 180 pages of emails released Monday stretch from February 2011 to December 2012. They cite intelligence from a number of sources, including some 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.

STRIKE HITS BENGHAZI 'PERSON OF INTEREST': The Pentagon announced Monday that a U.S. airstrike in Mosul earlier in June killed an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist believed linked to the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Ali Awni al-Harzi was a known ISIS "operative and organizational intermediary who was a person of interest" in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren in a statement.

The airstrike took place on June 15 in Mosul, a key Iraqi city that fell to ISIS fighters in June 2014.

Al-Harzi operated "closely with multiple ISIL-associated extremists throughout North Africa and the Middle East," Warren said, using another name for the terror group.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence committee, said al-Harzi was "responsible for planning hundreds of suicide attacks across the world" and was one of the first foreign fighters to join ISIS. 

Schiff said al-Harzi had a previous leadership role in Al Qaeda in Iraq, and was also responsible for recruiting foreign fighters and sending them to fight in Syria.

"He is also suspected of involvement in their hostage program, and to have played a role in the 2011 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that tragically killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," Schiff said.

DOD NO. 2 OPTIMISTIC ABOUT BUDGET DEAL: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work on Monday expressed confidence that Congress would strike a deal to lift Pentagon spending caps for at least the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Speaking to an audience on Monday at the Rand Corp., Work said he is "pretty certain we won't get to sequestration-level funding," according to DefenseNews.com.

He said the chances for a deal are higher now than just three months ago, due to the ongoing pressure from the Obama administration to reverse those budget ceilings. 

Senate Democrats have also vowed to block spending bills from consideration until Republicans start talks to lift the caps, which were imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act after lawmakers failed in 2013 to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. 

"Because of the president's strong veto threat, and because we've now demonstrated veto-sustaining votes in the House and Senate," things have changed, Work said.

OBAMA 'NEEDS TO ACCEPT' NDAA: Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) says the president should ditch his threats to veto the annual defense policy bill.

"Well, the president needs to accept, yes," Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, said Monday during an interview with Bloomberg Television.

"He should accept, yes. He has however, threatened to veto the bill because he believes that the EPA and the IRS are not being funded sufficiently," he added.

Last week, the Senate passed its $612 billion draft of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), around a month after the House approved its version.

Both have garnered a veto threat from the White House because they contain a roughly $38 billion increase to the Pentagon's war fund, allowing the department to bypass budget caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Turner said the dollar figure "makes certain that we can rise to the challenges that we're seeing in [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and also looking to how we can strengthen our presence in Europe."

"This is a budget that the president should support and certainly, I think both the Senate and the House are approaching an agreement," he added.

US WILL AID SPECIAL NATO FORCE: The U.S. will contribute weapons, aircraft and commandos for a new NATO rapid reaction force in Europe to defend against security threats, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.

The contribution will consist of intelligence and surveillance capabilities, special operations forces, logistical aid, transport aircraft, and a range of weapons including bombers, fighters and ship-based missiles, according to the Associated Press. 

Carter announced the details of the U.S. contribution in Germany, where he met with defense ministers from that country, as well as Norway and the Netherlands.

U.S. officials said final decisions have not been made on the number of troops that could participate. The troops would be available within 48-72 hours if requested and approved by U.S. leaders, the AP reported.

Carter, during a speech in Berlin earlier in the day, called for Germany and other NATO countries to stand together in the face of Russian aggression and other security threats.

Last year, Moscow invaded Ukraine and annexed its Crimean peninsula. Since then, Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have battled in Eastern Ukraine.

Carter said the U.S. was not seeking conflict with Russia.

"We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia," Carter said at Atlantik Brucke, a Berlin think tank. "We do not seek to make Russia an enemy.

"But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us. We will stand up to Russia's actions and their attempts to re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence," he added. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

-- Cruz ups pressure over Iran human rights

-- Pentagon chief taps VA official for public affairs post

-- NC teen charged with plotting mass shooting to support ISIS

-- Week ahead: Spending standoff in Senate

-- Budget fight threatens military pay raises

 

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