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US House committee subpoenas Clinton emails

March 5, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House of Representatives committee issued subpoenas Wednesday for the emails of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who used a private account exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — and also used a computer email server now traced back to her family’s New York state home.

The subpoenas indicate Republicans want questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email account to follow her into a widely anticipated second presidential campaign. Republicans, who control the investigative powers of Congress, say the revelations reaffirm their long-held portrayal of Bill and Hillary Clinton as secretive and playing by their own rules. Democrats dismiss the accusations as trivial, but they were fast becoming a distraction for Clinton.

“The American people deserve all of the facts,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, intends to investigate whether Clinton, by using a personal email account, may have violated federal requirements that written communications of officials are preserved.

Democrats question whether the emails will resonate with voters in an election 20 months away. But as the presidential nominating season begins, Clinton’s use of a personal email account for State Department business has stoked questions about transparency that threaten to cloud her early steps as the Democratic Party’s overwhelming favorite White House prospect.

The subpoenas from the Republican-led Select Committee on the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, demanded additional material from Clinton and others, spokesman Jamal D. Ware said. The panel also instructed technology companies it did not identify to preserve any relevant documents in their possession.

The questions follow recent reports about the Clinton family foundation’s raising of money from foreign governments, while she was the country’s top diplomat, to benefit the nonprofit’s philanthropic mission.

The development at Congress came the same day AP reported the existence of a personal email server traced back to the Chappaqua, New York, home of Clinton. The unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official running her own email server would have given Clinton significant control over limiting access to her message archives.

The practice also would complicate the State Department’s legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests. The department would be in the position of accepting Clinton’s assurances she was surrendering everything required that was in her control.

Congress said it learned last summer about Clinton’s use of a private email account to conduct official State Department business during its investigation of the Benghazi attacks on a U.S. mission in which four Americans died, including the ambassador to Libya.

Democrats called it a fishing expedition. They say the latest probes are throwbacks to the 1990s when they say Republicans overplayed their hands pursuing President Bill Clinton.

The questions about Clinton’s email practices left the Obama administration in an awkward position. At one point, the State Department directed reporters to contact Clinton, who has not publicly commented about her emails. The White House said it was her responsibility to make sure any emails about official business weren’t deleted from her private server.

Meanwhile, the AP said it was considering legal action against the State Department for failing to turn over some emails covering Clinton’s tenure as the top U.S. diplomat after waiting more than one year. The department has never suggested that it doesn’t possess all Clinton’s emails.

Clinton — who emailed so frequently using her BlackBerry as secretary of state that it became an Internet meme — is particularly sensitive about disclosures of personal files based on her experiences in confronting congressional investigations and civil lawsuits during her husband’s election and presidency and her own roles as first lady, senator, presidential candidate and Cabinet official.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Clinton as Cabinet secretary never used a government email account on the agency’s separate network for sharing classified information, which Clinton would have been prohibited from forwarding to her private email account.

Clinton has not described her reasons for using a private email account — hdr22@clintonemail.com, which appears to include a nod to her middle name, Diane. A spokesman for her did not respond to requests seeking comment from the AP on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails.

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