Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised a House panel that she permanently deleted all emails from her server, raising the stakes in a controversy that has dogged the presumptive presidential candidate for weeks.
WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a House select committee Friday that she permanently deleted all emails from the private server she used to conduct official business, apparently after she was first asked by the State Department to turn them over, the panel’s chairman said Friday.
In response to a congressional subpoena, Clinton also said she would not allow an independent third party to analyze the server.
Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, said in a letter to the panel that after her lawyers determined which emails were personal and which were private, a setting was changed to retain only emails sent in the previous 60 days.
“Thus, there are no firstname.lastname@example.org emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Kendall said.
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The House Select Committee on Benghazi had subpoenaed the server this month, asking Clinton to hand it over to a third party so it could determine which emails were personal and which were government records.
The head of that committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said: “Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest.
The disclosure raised the stakes in the controversy that has dogged the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate for weeks, since it was revealed that she had used an email server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home to conduct government business during her tenure from 2009 to 2013 as the nation’s top diplomat. The home is protected around the clock by the Secret Service.
Gowdy said Clinton’s attorney informed the committee Friday that she “unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server.”
“While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after Oct. 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the secretary to return her public record to the department,” Gowdy said.
It was not immediately clear whether the emails still could be recovered from the server through cyberforensic procedures.
The congressman said that “in light of the secretary’s unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office to permanently delete all emails,” and because of the matter’s import to the American people, the panel will work with House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, and other Republican leaders in considering its next steps.
Clinton said at a recent news conference at the United Nations that, in hindsight, it would have been smarter to have conducted State Department business through a government server. She said her attorneys had turned over 30,490 emails to the State Department in response to a request from the agency, but that she deleted more than 32,000 emails that she considered personal.
A spokesman for Clinton said in a statement Friday: “She’s ready and willing to come and appear herself for a hearing open to the American public.”
The spokesman, Nick Merrill, added that Clinton’s representatives “have been in touch with the committee and the State Department to make clear that she would like her emails made public as soon as possible.”
The Benghazi committee’s ranking Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, sought to play down Friday’s development, saying it merely confirmed what was already known. “It is time for the committee to stop this political charade and instead make these documents public and schedule Secretary Clinton’s public testimony now,” he said.
Gowdy is heading the latest House inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Killed in the violence were U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Meantime, Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, has asked his agency’s internal watchdog to examine how it handles its records and responds to requests for information after revelations about his predecessor’s use of a personal email account for government business.
“It is critical for the State Department to preserve a full and complete record of American foreign policy,” Kerry wrote to Inspector General Steve Linick. “It is also important for the American public to have access to that record.”
State Department officials said Friday that the request to the inspector general did not call for an examination of Clinton’s email but that Linick’s review could end up looking into the former secretary’s email.
The Obama administration has declined to explain much about Clinton’s use of a personal server and personal email account.
Clinton said many of her work-related emails were archived through other official accounts of those she communicated with. But State Department officials said in recent weeks that email was not automatically archived during her tenure.