Hillary Clinton will testify in less than a week (Oct. 22, to be exact) before the House Benghazi committee. But if you think the panel is focused exclusively on preparing for that day, you’d be wrong.
Not only is Clinton aide Huma Abedin coming in for a closed-door interview on Friday, but Republicans and Democrats close to the House Select Committee on Benghazi say they’re preparing to release information from past Benghazi witnesses that is certain to influence the growing controversy over the committee’s work.
Democrats continue to point fingers at the GOP-led probe, especially after Rep. Richard Hanna (N.Y.) became the second House Republican to suggest the panel is targeting Clinton. And Republicans are eager to show they are engaging in a fair and factual investigation. Both sides may soon leak documents and previous testimony from key witnesses to bolster their arguments.
Here’s a brief look at what to expect:
What’s coming: The transcript from investigators’ interview with former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills
Why it matters: Democrats believe partial GOP leaks have painted an unfairly negative picture of how Clinton handled the Benghazi situation as secretary of state. They hope to correct the record.
One of the ways to do this, they believe, is to release a complete transcript from their Sept. 3 conversation with Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff while she was secretary of state. The release is expected to take place soon, after redactions are complete, and will offer a direct look at how Republicans approach interviews with someone in Clinton’s inner orbit.
Interview excerpts already released by Democrats push back on Republican claims that Clinton was detached on the night of the 2012 attacks. Mills, according to the excerpts, described Clinton as hands-on and in favor of deploying military resources to “secure our people,” saying that “absolutely everything was on the table” in order to stabilize the situation in Benghazi.
“Obviously, it was a challenging environment, given that our compound had been overrun,” Mills told the panel. “And so you want to ensure that, as you also are thinking about who else might go in, how they are able to do that effectively. But my observation and impression and, obviously, engagements were around what can be done, what can be sent, and how can that be done best. There was not any notion of not doing that to the fullest amount that was practical, effective, and possible.”
What’s coming: More emails between Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal
Why it matters: Republicans believe that Clinton, at the very least, forwarded an inappropriate e-mail to her longtime friend. They say that Blumenthal, a former journalist and ex-White House official, is Clinton’s “most prolific e-mailer” on matters related to Libya.
On Oct. 8, Benghazi panel Chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced he would publish more e-mails between the two, alleging that the latest batch shows Clinton improperly forwarded an e-mail containing the name of an alleged CIA source. Additionally, Republicans said, Blumenthal emailed Clinton with the goal of influencing her Libya policy in a way that would help achieve success for a business venture he was trying to establish there.
It is “unsurprising,” Gowdy wrote to Democrats, “that somebody who knew so little about Libya would suddenly become so interested in Libya and push an old friend in a powerful place to action — for personal profit.”
Of Clinton apparently forwarding the name of an alleged CIA source, Gowdy wrote, “This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but also human lives. Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.”
The plan to release more emails is part of the growing fight between Republicans and Democrats inside the Benghazi panel. Gowdy’s announcement came after Democrats said they would release the Mills transcript, and both moves contributed to heightening tensions.
What’s coming: The closed-door interview with Huma Abedin
Why it matters: Abedin is Clinton’s close confidante, highest-profile aide and now the vice chairwoman of her presidential campaign. At the State Department, she held several overlapping roles that gave her near-constant access to Clinton. Investigators are expected to ask her about the night of the Benghazi attacks, but they could just as easily swerve into Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server or Abedin’s concurrent employment in and outside the State Department as a “special government employee.”
Abedin’s interview will take place in private on Friday on Capitol Hill, with reporters trying to piece together what happened through leaks and comments made by people who were in the room.
Still, any snippets of information could immediately become relevant to the ongoing fight between the Clinton campaign and Benghazi committee Republicans over the panel’s motivations.
As momentum shifts to their side, Team Clinton has seized every opportunity to point to GOP comments that the Benghazi investigation is entirely political. Any suggestion that Abedin’s questioning was political could add fuel to the fire.