Clinton: Sidney Blumenthal Wasn’t My Adviser, But He Sent Me A Lot Of Unsolicited Intelligence On Libya

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 22, 2015 6:10 PM
Clinton: Sidney Blumenthal Wasn’t My Adviser, But He Sent Me A Lot Of Unsolicited Intelligence On Libya

The relevant portion begins here, but Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, asked about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s relationship with longtime confidante Sidney Blumenthal, who appeared to have a secret intelligence network feeding the former first lady information about the situation in Libya. The Clinton Foundation, which paid him $10,000 a month, also employed him. Clinton tried to get him a position at the State Department after President Obama chose her to become Secretary of State; the White House refused to sign off on it.

When asked about Blumenthal’s employment after his recommendation to State was denied, Clinton said that he worked for her husband. Gowdy also listed the pro-Hillary Clinton rapid response team Correct the Record, and Media Matters for America, which was founded by Clintonite David Brock. Hillary assumed that he did.

Gowdy went on to describe Blumenthal, using Clinton’s words, as an “old friend,” who would send unsolicited emails that she would forward along since she wanted to hear from people outside of “the bubble.” That latter point Gowdy mentioned was debatable, but said Clinton left out that Blumenthal knew nothing about Libya, was critical of President Obama, loved to send “political and image” advice, had business interests in Libya (that he alerted her about), and forwarded his emails after she “redacted” them so no one knew where the information was coming from.

“What does the word 'unsolicited' mean to you?” Gowdy asked.

“It means that I did not ask him to send me the information that he sent me … some of it I found interesting, some of it I did not. Some of it, I forwarded. Some of it, I did not. I did not know anything about any business interests,” responded Clinton. With Blumenthal being a former journalist, she thought the information he was getting was from those past sources and connections, and that he might have some interesting insights.

Gowdy started with Clinton’s public comment that these emails were unsolicited.

“You wrote to him ‘Another keeper; thanks, and please keep them coming; greetings from Kabul and thanks for keeping this stuff coming; any other info about it?; what are you hearing now?; got it, we’ll follow up tomorrow. Anything else to convey?'"

Gowdy noted the last communication was “interesting” since that email related to Blumenthal asking Clinton to intervene on a business deal he was working on in Libya.

“What did you mean by 'what are you hearing now?'” asked Gowdy.

“I have no idea, Congressman,” said Clinton. “They started out unsolicited, and as I said, some were of interest, I passed them on and some were not and so he continued to provide me information that was made available to him.”

Gowdy noted that Clinton didn’t say they started out as unsolicited, they were unsolicited.

“They were unsolicited, but obviously, I did respond to some of them,” said Clinton.

Gowdy then listed more email exchanges that challenge Clinton’s definition of unsolicited.

“This report is in part a response to your questions,” read an email to Clinton from Blumenthal. If Clinton was the one doing the inquiring, how is it that these exchanges from him were unsolicited, which is the point Gowdy was trying to make.

“I said it began that way, Mr. Chairman, and will add that both Chris Stevens and Gene Cretz [former U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was succeeded by Stevens] found some of the information interesting. Far more than I could because they knew some of the characters that were being mentioned,” Clinton said.

Gowdy then asked Clinton if she knew who wrote the cables and intelligence memos that were sent to her, given that Blumenthal didn’t write a single one. Clinton said she didn’t know who wrote them, but added that she learned that he was working with former members of the U.S. intelligence community, and that she never asked her “old friend” who authored the cables after being pressed by Gowdy.

In one instance, where Blumenthal’s information was passed on, Clinton asked what appears to be her deputy chief of staff and longtime aide, Huma Abedin, to print it off without any indicators that would have revealed his identity. Clinton defended this action by saying the information he passed to her, and analyzing that, was more important. She also said that he wasn’t the source of the information, when Gowdy asked if the principal actors involved with viewing this intelligence, had the right to know where it was coming from “to determine credibility.” Clinton said that Blumenthal’s sources could be from a variety of places, including Washington D.C. and other contacts he’s made during his journalistic career.

Gowdy then asked, “Did the president know that Mr. Blumenthal was advising you?”

“He wasn’t advising me,” said Clinton.

“Did he know that he was your most prolific emailer that we have found on the subjects of Libya and Benghazi?”

“That’s because I didn’t do most of my work about Libya on email,” responded Clinton.

“That’s fair. I’m not challenging that, Madam Secretary,” said Gowdy. “All I’m telling you is that the documents show he was your most prolific emailer on Libya and Benghazi, and my question to you is did the president, the same White House that said you can’t hire him, did he know that he was advising you?”

“He was not advising me, and I have no reason to have ever mentioned that or know that the president knew that,” she said.

Gowdy later added that former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, was the person who authored the intelligence cables. Drumheller was allegedly part of Blumenthal’s intelligence operation. Gowdy brought this up when detailing Blumenthal’s apparent dislike for some of the president’s top officials, and adding that these communications speak to the issue of credibility:

TREY GOWDY: No, we're talking about credibility and the ability to assess who a source is, and whether or not that source has ever been to Libya, knows anything about Libya, or has business interests in Libya -- all of which would be important if you were going to determine the credibility, which I think is why you probably took his information off of what you sent to the White House.

But here's another possible explanation. It may give us a sense of why, maybe the White House didn't want you to hire him in the first place.

In one e-mail he wrote this about the president's Secretary of Defense: "I infer gate (ph) problem as losing an internal debate. Tyler..." And by the way, Tyler Drumheller (ph), that's who actually authored the cables that you got from Mr. Blumenthal.

"... Tyler knows him well and says he's a mean, vicious, little..." I'm not gonna say the word, but he did.

This is an e-mail from Blumenthal to you about the president' Security of Defense.

And here's another Blumenthal e-mail to you about the president's national security adviser. "Frankly, Tom Donelan's (ph) babbling rhetoric about narratives on a phone briefing of reporters on March the 10th has inspired derision among foreign -- serious foreign policy analysts both here and abroad."

And here's another from, what you say is your old friend Sidney Blumenthal. This is a quote from him. "I would say Obama..." -- and by the way, he left the president part out. "I would say Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. He and his political cronies in the White House and Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya. Obama's lukewarm and self-contradicting statements have produced what is, at least for the moment, operational paralysis."

GOWDY: I think, that may give us a better understanding of why the White House may have told you, you cannot hire him.

Blumenthal could not get hired by our government, didn't pass any background check at all, had no role with our government, had never been to Libya, had no expertise in Libya, was critical of the president and others that you worked with, shared polling data with you on the intervention in Libya, gave you political advice on how to take credit for Libya, all the while working for The Clinton Foundation and some pseudo news entities.

And Madam Secretary, he had unfettered access to you. And he used that access, at least on one occasion, to ask you to intervene on behalf of a business venture.

Do you recall that?

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you don't have any friends who say unkind things privately I congratulate you. But from my perspective...

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I'd like to think I'd correct them.

CLINTON: ... I don't know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I'll be happy to help you understand that, madam secretary.

CLINTON: But I want to reiterate what I said to Congresswoman Sanchez. These were originally unsolicited. You've just said that perhaps the main, if not the exclusive author, was a former intelligence agent for our country, who rose to the highest levels of the CIA and who was given credit for being one of the very few who pointed out that the intelligence used by the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq was wrong.

So I think that, you know, the sharing of information from an old friend that I did not take at face value, that I sent on to those who were experts, is something that, you know, makes sense.

But it was certainly not in any way the primary source of or the predominant understanding that we had of what was going on in Libya and what we needed to be doing.

GOWDY: Well, Madam Secretary, I'm out of time and we'll pick this back up the next round but I'll go ahead and let you know ahead of time why it's relevant.

It's relevant because our ambassador was asked to read and respond to Sidney Blumenthal's drivel. It was sent to him to read and react to, in some instances on the very same day he was asking for security. So I think it is eminently fair to ask why Sidney Blumenthal had unfettered access to you, Madam Secretary, with whatever he wanted to talk about.

And there's not a single solitary e-mail to or from you to or from Ambassador Stevens. I think that that is fair and we'll take that up.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) then asked if Blumenthal's transcript, the former aide was subpoenaed and testified behind closed doors, could be released to the public.  It set off a testy exchange between Gowdy, Cummings, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-NY) before the committee broke for lunch. 

Also, we were able to corroborate what David Ignatius of The Washington Post heard from a principal at Alphom Group, which he says employs former CIA/intelligence personnel in order to use their former contacts to sell information? Ignatius added that Blumenthal "approached" Drumheller, who worked at Alphom, saying that "his friend Clinton was looking for information about Libya."

Full transcript can be read here.