October 15, 2021

Clinton Defies Benghazi Committee, Destroys Remaining Emails

Clinton Defies Benghazi Committee, Destroys Remaining Emails

For Hillary Clinton, the deadline came and went Friday to hand over the personal email server she used as secretary of state to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Not only did Clinton refuse the request, but through her attorney, she also revealed the server had been wiped clean.

According to Clinton’s memoirs “Hard Choices,” on the night of the Benghazi attack, Sept. 11, 2012, she chose to conduct official operations from her Washington home on Whitehaven Parkway. That means the electronic record between Clinton and her government colleagues is particularly important to understanding her actions and decisions that night.

Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of printed email exchanges to the State Department archivists. But it was Clinton and her aides and attorneys who decided which records were relevant to government business.

Furthermore, the searchable electronic record was destroyed. According to Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the Benghazi Committee, the 300 emails Clinton turned over to the committee are the same as those previously submitted to the committee by the State Department.

“Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” Gowdy said about Clinton’s actions. Clinton’s refusal to honor the committee’s demand sets the stage for a tense standoff—one Gowdy has done his best to avoid since the committee was established by Congress on May 4 of last year. The committee’s initial hearings in September focused on systemic failures in embassy security and stayed clear of any personal finger-pointing, all to avoid the taint of partisanship.

It was clear from the outset, though, that at some point the role of the secretary of state and her personal staff would have to come under scrutiny. It was Clinton who ordered Ambassador Christopher Stevens to open the Benghazi consulate, yet at the same time oversaw reductions in diplomatic security in Libya. Her role is key.

Gowdy has announced that he will be asking Clinton to appear before the committee to explain her decisions regarding her email account. Suffice it to say that confrontation no longer can be avoided.

Helle C. Dale is the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow in public diplomacy. Her work focuses on the U.S. government’s institutions and programs for strategic outreach to the public of foreign countries, as well as more traditional diplomacy.