For months, it looked like the partisan wrangling over Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails might be relegated to the occasional House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing and that panel’s increasingly contentious clashes between Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings.
That changed dramatically Friday, after the New York Times reported two federal inspectors general had asked the Department of Justice to open a “criminal” investigation into the handling of classified information in some of the Clinton emails stored on her private server.
Within hours, Gowdy, Cummings, House Speaker John A. Boehner and the former secretary of State were firing off statements, trading quips and racing to react to a story the Clinton team immediately dismissed as without merit.
“Maybe the heat is getting to everyone,” Clinton said before a speech on the economy in New York Friday afternoon.
The DOJ initially confirmed the Times story before backing away a few hours later, specifically from the use of the word “criminal” in connection with the request, which came from two inspectors general from the State Department and intelligence agencies.
Cummings and other Democrats pounced, calling the Times’ report inaccurate.
Cummings said in a statement the DOJ told him directly the inspectors general’s request was “a ‘routine’ referral, and they have no idea how the New York Times got this so wrong.”
Clinton, who has agreed to an as-yet unscheduled appearance before the Benghazi panel, said, “I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the House Committee. We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right, and I will do my part. But I’m aso going to stay focused on the issues, parituclarly the big issues that matter to American families.”
Boehner called on Clinton, who has ackowledged using a personal, home-based server to store thousands of emails from her tenure as secretary of State, to hand over the server “immediately.”
“Two inspector generals appointed by President Obama have now called on the Justice Department to investigate Secretary Clinton’s mishandling of classified email. If Secretary Clinton truly has nothing to hide, she can prove it by immediately turning over her server to the proper authorities and allowing them to examine the complete record,” Boehner said in a statement.
Gowdy echoed the speaker in his statement, saying, “The number of questions surrounding Secretary Clinton’s unusual email arrangement continues to grow.”
The Benghazi panel was created by Boehner in May 2014 to consolidate investigations into the September 2012 terror attack that killed four Americans in Libya, but Democrats have increasingly dismissed the committee’s efforts as a partisan witch hunt aimed at derailing Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
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