Democrats suspect Benghazi panel delaying Clinton appearance

Reuters News
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Posted: May 08, 2015 6:16 PM

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats complained on Friday that a congressional panel probing the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, appeared to be putting off calling Hillary Clinton to testify, prolonging a partisan attack on her.

Former Secretary of State Clinton has been hounded by the Benghazi inquiry. A Republican-led House of Representatives investigatory panel set up last year is digging deeper as Clinton ramps up her 2016 campaign for the White House.

One sentence in an interim progress report released Friday by the committee's majority Republicans, Democrats said, suggested that Clinton would not be called to testify to the panel in May, as had been anticipated.

"The committee will call Secretary Clinton to testify once it is satisfied that all the relevant information has been provided by both the State Department and her," the sentence in the interim report said.

It made no reference to the possibility of scheduling a hearing the week of May 18 that the panel's chairman, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, had included in an April 23 letter to her lawyer David Kendall.

"At every turn, the Select Committee comes up with a new excuse to further delay its work and then blames its glacial pace on someone else," the Benghazi panel's senior Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings, complained in a statement.

He said the year-old panel had nothing to show for its probe "other than a partisan attack against Secretary Clinton and her campaign for president."

Republican sources said an announcement of when Clinton would testify could come next week, after lawmakers return from a spring recess and have a chance to discuss it.

Gowdy has repeatedly denied that the committee's efforts constitute a partisan attack on Clinton.

Four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed when militants stormed U.S. facilities in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

In his letter last month to Clinton's lawyer Kendall, Gowdy said he wanted Clinton to answer questions at two public hearings about Benghazi and her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.

Gowdy suggested the week of May 18 for the first appearance, with the second to follow no later than June 18, with the specific dates to be coordinated with Kendall.

But Kendall has rejected that plan, saying one appearance from Clinton was enough.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Andrew Hay)