The U.S. House committee investigating the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks at Benghazi, Libya, is adding a new wrinkle to the controversy by deciding to subpoena Sidney Blumenthal: a friend and confidant of Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Blumenthal is expected to be asked about the private advice he gave to Clinton while she served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Embarrassing questions and answers are expected to only increase speculation about Clinton’s viability as a candidate.
Blumenthal served as a senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton. However, The New York Times has reported that the Obama administration barred him from employment by Clinton at the State Department.
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) chairs the Select Committee on Benghazi is calling on Blumenthal to provide testimony on June 3 about memoranda he drafted for Clinton prior to the attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed. Congress wants to know more about Blumenthal’s services to Clinton, who is also expected to testify.
On May 19, a judge ordered the Department of State to hasten the release of more than 30,000 emails she sent from private email addresses while serving as the nation’s top diplomat. Hearing testimony from Clinton and Blumenthal, as well as sifting through the thousands of electronic messages, could go well into 2016, thus disrupting Clinton’s campaign to replace President Obama in the White House. Committee spokesman Jamal Ware said on May 19 “The Select Committee is focused on Benghazi, always has been.” The exact date of Clinton’s coming testimony before the committee has not yet been established. As for Clinton, she has agreed to testify only once. Gowdy said in response that the committee he chairs will not call her testify until "it is satisfied that all the relevant information has been provided by both the State Department and her."
As early as May 20, Clinton may face more speculation and embarrassment. This week, nearly 300 Clinton emails relating to Benghazi and released by State to the committee will be made public. Some of these will involve Blumenthal, who was neither employed nor cleared by State. Many of these were channeled through Clinton’s aide Jake Sullivan, who is now an advisor to her presidential campaign.
On May 20, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) – the top Democrat on the committee – criticized what he called the “heavy-handed” use by the Benghazi committee of the U.S. Marshal Service to deliver the subpoena to Blumenthal. “There was no need for the Select Committee to send two U.S. Marshals to the home of Sidney Blumenthal to serve his wife with a subpoena, especially since the Committee never bothered to contact him first to ask him whether he would voluntarily come in,” said Cummings in a statement. “These heavy-handed, aggressive, and unnecessary tactics waste the time of the U.S. Marshal service.”
In a report released in April 2015, the committee revealed that interviews with current and former officials at State have “raised additional questions.” A second spate of interviews of mid-level State officials will soon begin. Some of them are key Clinton allies. They include: Jake Sullivan, Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Susan Rice, and Patrick Kennedy. Others include White House and national security staff, including: former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough; and former deputy strategic communications advisor Ben Rhodes.
Blumenthal’s subpoena came on the day after The New York Times reported that he had provided private intelligence reports to Clinton about the security situation in Libya prior to the attacks in Benghazi. The Times reported that Clinton passed on some of these reports to others.