The Benghazi Committee wants to get Hillary Clinton on the record about her email practices.
Panel Chairman Trey Gowdy, in a letter sent Tuesday to Clinton's attorney, asks for the interview within the next month "to better understand decisions the secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records."
Gowdy's letter criticizes Clinton's refusal thus far to agree to his request to turn her private server over to the State Department's inspector general or another third party. Clinton attorney David Kendall told Gowdy in a letter last week that Clinton would not turn over the server and that no emails from her time as secretary of State remain on the server or "any back-up systems" associated with it.
Gowdy's letter suggests this could delay the review, a claim that shifts some burden onto Clinton at a time when Democrats are alleging that Gowdy is drawing out his probe to politically damage Clinton during her likely presidential run.
"Secretary Clinton's refusal to allow the inspector general to ensure the public record is complete is not only disappointing but portends to delay the ability of our committee to complete its work as expeditiously as possible," states the letter, which asks her to reconsider.
"If the secretary continues to reject the offer of a neutral review, the House of Representatives as a whole will need to consider its next steps," he adds.
Clinton's spokesman has said she is ready and willing to appear at a public hearing, which Gowdy has not yet scheduled. The chairman says the interview in private is a necessary first step.
"The committee believes a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary Clinton's privacy, the security of the information queried, and the public's interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it," he writes.
"Once there is a reasonable assurance all documents in the secretary's care, custody, and control related to what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi have been shared with the committee, we will be in a position to schedule her appearance in a public hearing to constructively discuss these topics. We share the secretary's desire these two conversations take place as quickly and efficiently as possible, and are willing to expedite both working with your office, the secretary's schedule and our Democrat colleagues on the committee," Gowdy adds.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Benghazi panel's top Democrat, took a dim view of Gowdy's latest missive.
"Secretary Clinton agreed to testify months ago—in public and under oath—so the Select Committee's claim that it has no choice but to subject her to a private staff interview is inaccurate," Cummings said in a statement. "Rather than drag out this political charade into 2016 and selectively leak portions of a closed-door interview, the Committee should schedule the public hearing, make her records public, and re-focus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi."
This article has been updated.
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