(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said Thursday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have testified before the committee sooner, but she had “an unusual email arrangement” with herself, so the State Department was not able to hand over her emails to the committee.
The committee's hearing with Clinton, Gowdy said,
"is about what this country owes those who risk their lives to serve it.
"It is about the fundamental obligation of our government to tell the truth--always--to the American people,” he said.
“I understand you wanted to come sooner than today so let me be clear why that did not happen. You had an unusual email arrangement with yourself, which meant the State Department could not produce your emails to us,” Gowdy said in his opening statement.
Gowdy was referring to the investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal server to send and receive work emails during her tenure as secretary of State.
“You made exclusive use of personal email and a personal server. When you left the State Department, you kept those public records to yourself for almost two years. You and your attorneys decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not ours,” Gowdy told Clinton.
“It was only in March of this year we learned of this email arrangement. Since we learned of your email arrangement, we have interviewed dozens of witnesses, only one of whom was about your email arrangement, and that was a very short interview, because he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” he said.
“It is impossible” to conduct a “serious, fact-centric investigation” into the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya - which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens – “without access to the documents from the former Secretary of State, the Ambassador who knew more about Libya than anyone else, and testimony from witnesses who survived the attacks,” Gowdy said.
The committee received 1500 new pages of Clinton’s emails related to Libya and Benghazi, Gowdy said, although the attacks took place three years ago. Similarly, the committee recently received almost 1400 pages of Stevens’ emails – three years after the attacks which led to his death.
Gowdy told Clinton that Thursday’s hearing was not about her, “and let me assure you why it is not.”
“This work is about something much more important than any single person. It is about four U.S. government workers, including our ambassador, murdered by terrorists on foreign soil. It is about what happened before, during, and after the attacks that killed these four men. It is about what this country owes those who risk their lives to serve it,” he said.
“It is about what this country owes those who risk their lives to serve it. It is about the fundamental obligation of our government to tell the truth - always - to the American people,” he said.
“Not a single member of this Committee signed up for an investigation into you or your email system. We signed up, because we wanted to honor the service and sacrifice of four people sent to a foreign land to represent us - who were killed - and do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others,” Gowdy added.
Gowdy said the committee “has interviewed half a hundred witnesses, not a single one of them has been named Clinton until today.”
“You were the Secretary of State for this country when our facility was attacked. So, of course this committee is going to talk to you. You are an important witness, but you are just one important witness, among half a hundred important witnesses,” he added.