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Blumenthal to appear at Benghazi panel

Blumenthal to appear at Benghazi panel

The House panel investigating the deadly 2012 assault in Benghazi, Libya, is poised to spend the day with one of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Republicans cancel airtime in swing Vegas district The Democratic Donald Trump is coming MORE’s closest confidants.

On Tuesday, Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend of the Clinton family, is set to give his long-awaited private deposition to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

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While Blumenthal is due to appear at 10 a.m., the closed-door session will be broken up into one-hour rounds, divided equally between the Republicans and Democrats, according to the panel’s congressional charter.

The same agreement also established that all depositions be conducted in private, with the consent of both sides required before any information from the session can be made public.

One panel aide said the expectation is that each side will conduct at least two rounds of questioning — meaning the proceedings would last four hours — and there is a possibility lawmakers could commence a third round.

“Tomorrow’s deposition is expected to last several hours with breaks provided throughout,” the aide told The Hill on Monday.

Republican panel members have anxiously awaited Blumenthal’s testimony since he was subpoenaed last month.

While much of the questioning will be conducted by the panel’s attorneys, GOP members, no doubt, will use the opportunity to pose a host of questions to a member of Clinton’s inner circle about the events before and after the deadly siege that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Blumenthal was on the ground in Libya at the time of the attacks, as he tried to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government for a group of business associates. That effort was ultimately unsuccessful.

Democrats have criticzed the Benghazi panel's work. Calling Blumenthal to testify is just the latest example of the panel straying "far from investigating the Benghazi attacks and is now focused like a laser on attacking Secretary Clinton in her run for president," Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the panel's top Democrat, said in a statement late Monday night.
 
"It is a travesty that the Committee has already squandered more than $3.5 million taxpayer funds on this partisan fishing expedition with no end in sight," he added, noting the event is the "first and only deposition the Select Committee had held in the entire year since it was established, and it is completely unnecessary."
 
"The witness was completely willing to talk to the Committee, yet the Chairman ordered armed Marshals to his home to serve a subpoena on his wife without ever even contacting him. It is difficult to understand why any of these abusive actions are warranted," Cummings said.

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

Clinton regularly forwarded the unsolicited memos to her aides, sometimes asking for them to be printed, sometimes simply marking them “fyi.”

But on at least one occasion, she questioned Blumenthal’s information, emailing adviser Jake Sullivan to say that memo “strains credulity. What do you think?”

He agreed: “Definitely. I can share if you like, but it seems like a thin conspiracy theory.”

The GOP is sure to focus on a message from Sept. 12, 2012, from Blumenthal to Clinton that initially blamed the Benghazi attacks on “what many devout Libyan [sic] viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America.”

A follow-up email sent the next day attributed the fatal incident to a terrorist attack.

“From time to time, as a private citizen and friend, I provided Secretary Clinton with material on a variety of topics that I thought she might find interesting or helpful,” Blumenthal said in a statement provided by his attorney, James Cole, after he agreed to the deposition.

Cole served as deputy attorney general of the United States until January. He is now a partner in the Government Litigation & Investigations practice at the law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

The select committee is also likely to inquire about the private email server Clinton used while acting as the nation’s top diplomat.

Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRosenstein to appear for House interview next week House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant MORE (R-S.C.) has repeatedly called on Clinton to turn over the server to a third party to determine if any of its files can be salvaged.

Blumenthal, who messaged Clinton at her personal email address, will likely be grilled on what he knew about her unique email setup.

It is unclear if Blumenthal or Cole will make a statement at any point during or after Tuesday’s proceedings.

This story was updated at 9:33 a.m.
 
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