Benghazi, email probes plow ahead after Clinton testimony

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2015 3:16 AM
Benghazi, email probes plow ahead after Clinton testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly five weeks after Hillary Rodham Clinton's marathon testimony on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, several investigations into the deadly assault and Clinton's use of a private email account and server are going full bore — and likely will continue into the presidential election year.

Republicans on the House Benghazi panel were traveling to Europe, while Senate investigators continue to probe Clinton's use of a private homebrew email server for business purposes and her decision to delete messages she deemed personal. Clinton served as secretary of state during the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and now is the Democratic front-runner for president.

Here's how the Clinton-related inquiries are proceeding:

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BENGHAZI REPUBLICANS TO EUROPE

GOP lawmakers on the House panel were traveling to Europe as their 18-month old inquiry moves forward.

The committee declined to release details about the trip for security reasons, but a spokesman confirmed it includes visits to military and intelligence installations. The U.S. Africa Command, responsible for military relations with African nations, is based in Germany and has sites in Italy.

Democrats said they were skipping the trip and complained that Republicans are embarking on "a lavish and expensive new congressional delegation to Italy and other European destinations." The committee has already topped $5 million in taxpayer spending since its creation in May 2014.

"The Republicans will never resuscitate the credibility of this committee, and they certainly won't do so by traveling to Italy on the taxpayers' dime," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat.

In the aftermath of the Paris and Mali attacks, "all security concerns are being taken into account," said Matt Wolking, a spokesman for the committee.

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"STEPPING IN A TRAP"

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., who is going on the European trip, said it was for research on Benghazi.

"So this thing is not over," he told supporters in Georgia earlier this month. "And I promise you one thing: We are going to tell you what really happened, and all the consequences that went with it, and let you know if we are prepared for another situation that can possibly come up in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world where we have our men and women working for this country."

Republicans have been widely criticized after last month's 11-hour hearing with Clinton, and Westmoreland said he and his colleagues should have known they were "stepping in a trap" by allowing the hearing with Clinton to be conducted in public.

"We should have known that she was going to go on and just stall, debate, filibuster on these answers to make it go as long as possible, so we would look cruel," he said of Clinton.

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GRASSLEY FOCUSES ON EMAILS

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is continuing his investigation into Clinton's email setup and the special work status of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide who also has been interviewed by the House Benghazi panel.

Grassley sent a letter last week to former Clinton aide Heather Samuelson, who helped screen Clinton's emails as officials determined which ones would be turned over to the government and eventually made available to the public and which ones were deemed private and later deleted. Samuelson worked on the emails with Clinton's former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and her longtime lawyer, David Kendall.

Grassley asked Samuelson a series of detailed questions, including what level of security clearance she had at State and who asked her to review Clinton's emails.

Meanwhile, Grassley is blocking three of President Barack Obama's nominees to State Department jobs after dropping holds on 20 nominees. Grassley said the State Department's refusal to respond to his requests for information regarding Clinton's email server and Abedin's special employment status has left him no choice.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has accused Grassley of political motivations.

"Why are nonpartisan public servants being used as political pawns?" Reid asked in a speech on the Senate floor this month. "Especially if they're being blocked just because Sen. Grassley doesn't want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States."

Grassley replied that "looking out for the public interest isn't a waste of time" and said he would "keep at it regardless of misguided attacks on my motivations or mischaracterizations of my work."

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SERVER SECURITY

The FBI and Senate Homeland Security Committee are investigating the security of Clinton's email setup, which included a private server located at her New York home. The server, which stored some 55,000 pages of emails from her time as secretary of state, was the subject of attempted cyberattacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany after she left office in early 2013, according to the Homeland Security panel.

The committee, led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is trying to determine whether classified information was exposed on the homemade server. "On an issue of such importance, we must fully understand Secretary Clinton's decision to use a private email server and its consequences to our nation," Johnson said.

FBI Director James Comey has said the bureau's inquiry is continuing.