If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refuses to voluntarily comply with requests from the Select Committee on Benghazi, committee chair Trey Gowdy will have no choice but to subpoena her, he said Thursday on Newsmax TV's
"You hate that it gets to that point," said Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is a former district attorney. "You ought to be able to make a request of a former cabinet level official. You shouldn't have to resort to legal process. But certainly, the committee can subpoena people and subpoena documents. Our committee cannot subpoena personal property like cars and boats and servers."
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"But yes, we need to talk to her. And I plan on talking to her, and I hope it's something that we can work out with her lawyer," he said. "I cannot do the job that I was asked to do with respect to Benghazi in Libya without talking to the secretary of state."
Revelations that Clinton exclusively used her personal email account to conduct State Department business has added yet another hurdle to clear in the ongoing investigation into exactly what Clinton knew, and when, as it relates to the killing of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
"I cannot ask her about Benghazi until there is a level of assurance that we have everything that we are legitimately entitled to with respect to Benghazi," Gowdy said.
But Clinton, insisting that she has turned over all correspondence that she is legally required to, has said she will not allow an independent third party to review some 30,000 emails contained on her home server because they are "personal."
"What really caught my attention is when she said, 'we,'" he said. "'We' went through the documents and sorted out what was public and private. Who is 'we?'
"If you're talking about your lawyer doing it, how can we have any assurance that your lawyer negotiated or resolved or reconciled any close questions in favor of the public as opposed to his client, which would be you?"
Gowdy acknowledged that Clinton is "a very distinguished person with a very distinguished career," but said that she is not an expert on the Federal Records Act.
"So someone had to be involved in the conversation to determine, you know, this is more public than personal," he said. "And I'll give you an example: let's assume that you emailed Secretary Clinton and said, 'Looking so forward to going to Chelsea's wedding, thank you for the invitation. If I catch you at the reception, I'd like to ask you about Paraguay and what's happening there.' Is that personal or is that public? Or is it a mixture? And if it's a mixture, how do you resolve that?"
Her explanation for having a private server in lieu of using the government's is also curious, he said.
"The whole notion that it was done for convenience —
I'm not an expert on cellphone technology, but I can tell you in 2010 I was able to put two email accounts on one Blackberry. And the president, who's a really, really busy guy, manages to comply with the records act using a Blackberry," said Gowdy.
"To me, what is inconvenient
is setting up your own server. It'd be much easier to carry another phone or, heaven forbid, have two email addresses on one."
Gowdy reiterated that he and the committee have no interest in emails about Clinton's "yoga practice schedule or the color of the bridesmaids' dress," a reference to Chelsea Clinton's wedding, but maintained that he does want everything he's legitimately entitled to with respect to Libya and Benghazi.
"And the media has requests that were outstanding and there are other committees, so it's bigger than just our committee and what we want to ask her," he said. "I can't ask her about Benghazi until I satisfy myself that we are in a position to have access to every document we're entitled to."
The State Department has also not been forthcoming, according to Gowdy, who said that "they never once told us that [Clinton] only used a personal email account."
The committee, he said, was not notified until the Friday before The New York Times
broke the story the following Monday that they didn't have Clinton's email records.
In August, the State Department turned over to the select committee eight emails, all of which came from Clinton's private email address. That address was something committee members made note of during their pursuit of other things with the State Department, such as access to witnesses and other issues relating to Benghazi, Gowdy said.
He has since learned that in October, the State Department sent a letter to former secretaries of state asking them to produce emails for archiving.
"So fast forward to February and, oh by the way, in December, we wrote her personal attorney, David Kendall, and said, look, can you help us with this personal email address? And he referred us back to this State Department," Gowdy said.
"So we're thinking the whole time, well, State Department has all these emails, we just got to hurry them up.
"They gave us another production in February," he said. "It was about 800 pages but 300 emails, all of them were personal accounts, no official account.
"When The New York Times broke their story is the first time that I learned that the only reason we're getting a personal account is that's all she has and, oh by the way, she kept her records when she left the State Department. That never was shared with us by the State Department, despite multiple opportunities for them to do so."
Gowdy said he and his committee have been diligent about keeping all information gleaned during the investigation confidential in order to keep from the appearance that it's "a political exercise and not a serious investigation."
"I did not sign up for a political exercise," he said. "I signed up to try to bring some comfort and some justice to my fellow citizens and four people who were murdered. So I take this very seriously and I don't like leaks and I don't like selective releases, and The New York Times knows full well no one on our committee was the source of that information.
"I learned it when I read the story. Did I know she had a personal email account? Absolutely," he said. "Did I know that's all she had? Did I know that the State Department didn't have all of her records until she gave them back?
"Not until I read Mr. Schmidt's article," Gowdy said. "He's got better sources at the State Department than I do."
The lawmaker hopes Clinton will reconsider what he characterizes as a "very reasonable request."
"Turn the server over to an independent, neutral, detached third party. Let that person determine what's personal, what's public — let that person determine what's related to Benghazi and Libya. You keep all the rest of it, Mr. Neutral Referee or Mrs. Neutral Referee. Just give me what I'm entitled to," Gowdy said.
"I do need to talk to her about how she handled records before I talk to her about Benghazi. But as soon as those conversations can take place, I would be thrilled to have her before the committee.
"We can ask her the questions we have, and we will continue interviewing eyewitnesses and we will continue interviewing other principles and witnesses with respect to Libya," he said. "We're going to write a really good report at the end of our investigation. How quickly she comes and goes from Capitol Hill is, frankly, solely in her power."
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