WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Friday released 296 emails, totaling 896 pages, that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turned over to the State Department and the special committee investigating the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In a September 2012 email to Clinton, top aide Jake Sullivan told her another Obama administration official, Susan Rice, stumbled in an appearance on ABC's Sunday news show "This Week." Rice was criticized for insisting the Benghazi attack was spurred by Libyan street protests over an anti-Muslim video and not planned by al-Qaida-inspired militants.
In an email addressed to "H'' that included a full transcript of Rice's interview, Sullivan said Rice, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved. The only troubling sentence relates to the investigation, specifically: 'And we'll see when the investigation unfolds whether what was — what transpired in Benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances." Sullivan then added, "But she got pushed there."
In another email that month, Clinton complained to Sullivan about a New York Times article that said Clinton cited a "clear link" between al-Qaida and the Benghazi attack. Clinton said the story "is a stretch beyond what I said or intended" but told Sullivan she did not think further comment was needed. Sullivan replied that aides were working with a Times reporter, Eric Schmitt, "who is being a pain in the ass."
Some of the emails released Friday illustrate how fluidly Clinton and some aides, such as Huma Abedin, moved between serious discussions of State Department business and personal concerns. In an Oct. 29, 2012, message to Clinton, Abedin urged Clinton to call one of the State Department employees injured in the Benghazi attack and promised to convey later the substance of a confidential conversation she had "with my friend who was in Benghazi."
But in the same message, Abedin told Clinton about "a possibility of three nice gowns and a lot of blouses and jackets," adding, "I think we should find a day in (New York) sometime soon so you can try things on."
The day after the attacks, most emails were condolences, reactions and press responses to Clinton's comments on the attack.
Some of the emails consisted of gushing praise — in some cases, from surprising sources.
"What a wonderful, strong and moving statement by your boss," Christian Brose, a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in an email to Sullivan. "Please tell her how much Sen. McCain appreciated it. Me too."
Sullivan sent it on to Clinton. McCain has been a sharp critic of Clinton and President Barack Obama on Libya and other issues.
In one email, Clinton aide Philippe Reines noted that a reporter for The Wall Street Journal went "knee to knee" with Clinton during an interview. "Amazed she didn't try knee in-between knee," Reines joked about the reporter, Monica Langley. He said he was shocked Langley would "invade" Clinton's personal space, comparing it to "a dental hygienist rolling around the floor to get the best access to your mouth." Reines called Langley's behavior "unacceptable."
Even so, Reines, a famously prickly critic of the news media, told a senior State Department official he thought the interview was "wonderful. One of the best interviews I've ever witnessed."
Reines also was featured in another email, forwarded to Clinton and other high-ranking officials, in which he apologized to Michael Hastings, a reporter for Buzzfeed and Rolling Stone, about language he used to criticize a story by Hastings just after the Benghazi attacks. "As you can imagine this has been an intense time for everyone at the State Department, including me," Reines wrote. "While I stand by the fundamental principles at issue here, that does not justify my unprofessional response to your emails. I particularly do not want my words to be a distraction from this tragedy. I apologize, both for my language and for my tone."
Hastings thanked Reines for the note and added, "in the interest of diplomacy and extending an olive branch: we should get a drink sometime, off the record."
Hastings died in a car crash the following year.