WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House committee investigating the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks are demanding that the panel's Republican chairman withdraw a subpoena for Hillary Rodham Clinton's personal emails and schedule a hearing for Clinton to testify immediately.
Democrats said in a letter Friday that the subpoena shows the panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has taken a "very partisan and political turn."
Democrats urged Gowdy to immediately publish Clinton's emails in their entirety to "help clear up any misperceptions." They said the committee should return to investigating the Benghazi attacks instead of being "a surrogate for the Republican National Committee."
Democrats said Gowdy appeared to be targeting Clinton, the former secretary of state and a leading Democratic contender for president in 2016, "for political reasons" rather than to clarify remaining questions about the attacks.
The letter is signed by all five Democrats who serve on the Benghazi panel, including Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's senior Democrat. The 12-member panel is investigating the September 2012 attacks, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Committee Republicans said Wednesday they had subpoenaed Clinton's personal emails pertinent to its probe. The panel said it also has issued a subpoena to the State Department for all other individuals who have relevant information.
The House panel's announcement about the subpoenas came after it was disclosed that as the nation's top diplomat, Clinton relied on a personal email account rather than one operated by the government.
Gowdy spokesman Jamal Ware said Friday that the committee was moving forward with the subpoena.
Gowdy will not release the emails "because doing so would imply we have all the emails," Ware said. "Because of the use of personal emails and servers, the committee may not know that we have a complete record for some time."
Ware said the State Department did not notify the committee until Feb. 27 that it did not have custody or control of Clinton's emails "because of her exclusive use of personal email for the conduct of official State business. They also failed to inform the committee of her use of a personal server."
Instead of questioning the State Department or Clinton, "once again, the Democrats send a letter attacking the committee and complaining about process," Ware said.
Democrats said in their letter to Gowdy that Clinton told the committee she was willing to testify as early as last December.
Democrats have been pushing for Clinton to testify as soon as possible, in part because it would enable her to do so as a former secretary of state and not as an announced presidential candidate.
Gowdy has said he wants Clinton to testify as soon as possible, but not until panel members "have all of the relevant documents" they need, including emails and other information. The State Department has turned over to the committee about 300 of Clinton's emails, totaling 850 pages, related to Benghazi.
Democrats said in their letter that the emails and other documents "include no evidence to suggest that Secretary Clinton ordered the Secretary of Defense to 'stand down'" during the Benghazi attacks, as some Republican have charged.
The emails also contain no evidence to suggest Clinton was personally involved in denying requests for security for Benghazi, and no evidence to suggest she ordered the destruction of documents, Democrats said. "Nothing in these emails contradicts or calls into question the findings of the independent Accountability Review Board," which concluded that decisions about the consulate were made well below the secretary's level.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the Benghazi panel, said in an interview that the panel appears to have moved "far afield from Benghazi" and now appears to be "going after the likely Democratic presidential candidate."
Schiff called that "deeply disturbing," adding, "We are very much off the tracks."
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