Clinton email scandal intensifies as Benghazi investigators find ‘huge gaps’

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Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who heads the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the panel received 800 pages containing 300 of Mrs. Clinton's emails from the State Department in December, but that there are "huge gaps" between some of the emails. (Associated Press)
Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who heads the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the panel received 800 pages containing 300 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails from the State Department in December, but that there are “huge gaps” between some of the emails. (Associated Press)

By Valerie Richardson –
The Hillary Rodham Clinton email scandal picked up steam Sunday as the lead Republican investigator on Benghazi said there are “huge gaps” between emails received so far from her private server, and even a top Senate Democrat urged Mrs. Clinton to be more forthcoming.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said that Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state and early favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, needs to speak out because, “from this point on, the silence is going to hurt her.”

“Actually, what I would like is for her to come forward and say just what the situation is, because she is the pre-eminent political figure right now,” Mrs. Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, to be the next president, and I think that she needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who heads the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the panel received 800 pages containing 300 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails from the State Department in December, but that there are “huge gaps” between some of the emails.

“There are gaps of months and months and months,” Mr. Gowdy said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “If you think [back] to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya — she has sunglasses on, and she has her hand-held device in her hand — we have no emails from that day. And we have no emails from that trip.”

Given that the panel has issued multiple subpoenas for records related to Libya and the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic post in 2012, “it strains credibility to believe that if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there’s not a single document that’s been turned over to Congress,” he said.

Mr. Gowdy issued subpoenas last week to Mrs. Clinton for her communications regarding Libya as well as letters to Internet companies informing them that they are obligated, under the subpoenas, to preserve the emails.

The uproar surrounding her email account could not come at a worse time for Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to announce a presidential candidacy in the next month or so. The controversy, which was discussed on every major Sunday news show, has also resuscitated the Benghazi issue, seen as the low point of her tenure at the State Department.

Democrats have characterized the subpoenas as a politically motivated effort to damage Mrs. Clinton’s image as she prepared for a presidential run, noting that she has already turned over 55,000 pages of emails from her commercial account to the State Department for vetting.

“[W]hat’s not appropriate is for a taxpayer-funded investigative committee, which is what we are, to be using our power, our subpoena or tax dollars to become an arm of the Republican National Committee, and that’s what happened this week, and that is deeply disturbing,” said Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, who sits on the Benghazi committee, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Democrats also stressed that Mrs. Clinton broke no laws in using her personal server for official business, and that she turned over the emails late last year at the request of the State Department, which made the same request to other former secretaries.

Mr. Schiff said the committee already has the relevant emails. “They [Republicans] issued a subpoena for records we already have,” he said.

Republicans have repeatedly cited a lack of transparency in the process. They emphasized that nobody knows whether Mrs. Clinton has turned in all business-related emails from her private account, nor does anyone know who on her staff was in charge of screening the emails and deciding which to forward.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said the latest subpoena was necessary because “voluntary cooperation does not guarantee that it’s a crime not to deliver all.”

“A subpoena, which Trey Gowdy issued, is so that in fact it will be a crime if she knowingly withholds documents pursuant to [the] subpoena,” Mr. Issa said. “He needed to do that because she wasn’t forthcoming 21/2 years ago. She in fact hid the very existence of this until she was caught.”

Mr. Issa also noted that her private emails would not have been produced under the numerous Freedom of Information Act requests filed in the years since the Benghazi attack.

“[T]here is a big difference between being open, transparent, honest and having public integrity, and only when you get caught do you turn in documents,” Mr. Issa said. “We only have the documents she gave us. That’s not the basis. Normally an inspector general searches through all documents to find which ones are appropriate. You don’t necessarily ask the person to self-disclose.”

The email controversy has also opened up the State Department to charges of a double standard regarding former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, who was fired by Department of State Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills after a scathing inspector general’s report listed numerous problems, including his use of a private email.

“Secretary Clinton and Cheryl Mills were in very close dialogue on all issues, and I know that, in my view she would have known that Secretary Clinton was not using the open net,” Mr. Gration said on CNN’s State of the Union. “So I do find it sort of unusual that she stated that this was one of the reasons why I had to move on, and, as I look back, it seems a bit unfair.”

Mr. Gowdy added that he has “lost confidence” in the State Department’s ability to decide which emails to release.

“They’re the ones who allowed this arrangement, they’re the ones who did nothing about this arrangement until they had a request from our committee,” Mr. Gowdy said, adding, “We’re not entitled to everything. I don’t want everything. I just want everything related to Libya and Benghazi.”

President Obama said in an interview Saturday with CBS that he learned of the private email server in news accounts, and that, “I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed.”

Mr. Gowdy responded that, “with respect to the president, it’s not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what’s a public record and what’s not.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Sunday that Mrs. Clinton has complied with the law by preserving the emails and that “no one has alleged that any have been deleted.”

“The fact that she had so many of them, the fact that she turned them over, by the way, before any of this became public — I think in October the State Department asked all secretaries of state to send their emails over, and she’s the only one who has done it — I think gainsays any of that,” Mr. Schumer said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday in a post on Twitter, “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

Perhaps the most astonishing disclosure Sunday came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who said he has never used email.

“I don’t email,” Mr. Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No, you can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”