WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US congressional panel investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks called for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to testify by May 1, following a scandal involving her use of private e-mails while secretary of state.
Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, made the request after Clinton rejected his earlier demand that she turn over her private computer server, on which her e-mails were stored, to US officials for a third-party review.
Clinton, who is mulling a 2016 presidential run, acknowledged on March 10 that she deleted nearly 32,000 personal e-mails written during her four-year tenure as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat.
She said she handed her 30,000 official e-mails over to the State Department for public preservation.
On Friday, her lawyers said her e-mail server was wiped clean.
“This committee is left with no alternative but to request Secretary Clinton appear before this committee for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention and ultimately deletion of public records,” Gowdy said in a letter to Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall.
“The committee is willing to schedule the interview at a time convenient for secretary Clinton but no later than May 1, 2015,” he added.
Gowdy said the testimony should be conducted as a “transcribed interview,” presumably in a non-public setting, that would “best protect Secretary Clinton’s privacy (and) the security of the information queried.”
A public hearing would follow.
In January 2013, Clinton testified before lawmakers on the Sept 11, 2012 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
While it was unclear if Clinton would agree to a likely closed-door session with Gowdy, she has long agreed to return for public testimony.
“Secretary Clinton already told the committee months ago that she was ready to appear at a public hearing,” her spokesman Nick Merrill said in an e-mail.
“It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” he said of the committee.
Gowdy warned that Clinton had created a “unique arrangement with herself as it relates to public records” while secretary of state, and characterised such an arrangement as “highly unusual, if not unprecedented.”
Persistent debate over Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account at State threatens to tarnish any rollout this spring of her presidential campaign.
Should Clinton enter the race, she would be the clear Democratic frontrunner for 2016.
The Republican nomination contest is wide open, with GOP figures including Jeb Bush, Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker all but certain to run. Senator Ted Cruz formally launched his presidential bid last week.