It’s every litigator’s nightmare. You turn over thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of documents to the opposing party pursuant to its request for production. Your production includes every responsive document your client gave you.
But then, a non-party gets subpoenaed, and she (it was a woman when it happened to me) turns over an important document responsive to the production request that your client wrote or that was addressed to him, and that you didn’t produce. Because your client didn’t give it to you.
You’ve got some explaining to do. So does your client.
And so does Hillary Clinton. She’s the “client” in the kind of scenario I’ve just described. The State Department is the “lawyer” who produced documents to “the other side” — Trey Gowdy’s congressional committee. Sidney Blumenthal is the third party.
The State Department or Hillary Clinton withheld emails from the House Benghazi committee that explicitly mentioned Democratic messaging following the 2012 terrorist attack, even though the panel had specifically asked for those kinds of correspondence to be turned over, POLITICO has learned.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi has in its possession an email exchange — dated just a few weeks after the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya was overrun and four Americans were killed — in which Sidney Blumenthal forwarded the Democratic presidential front-runner links to blog posts blasting the GOP for politicizing the attacks, a congressional source tells POLITICO.
But it’s not just blog post links that were withheld from Congress. According to the New York Times:
[E]mails, provided by Sidney Blumenthal [but not turned over by the State Department] include information about weapons that were circulating in Libya and about the security situation in Benghazi in the year and a half before the attacks.
The committee has asked the State Department and Mrs. Clinton several times in the past year for emails from her and other department officials about “weapons located or found in” Libya and about the decision to open and maintain a diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Neither Politico nor the Times takes a position on whether it was Hillary Clinton or the State Department that withheld the emails, and this is fair. Just as a lawyer might fail, intentionally or inadvertently, to produce documents that a client has turned over, it’s possible that Hillary handed over the Blumenthal exchange and State dropped the ball.
The more the non-produced emails, 60 in all, tend to make Clinton look bad, the easier it will be to infer that she destroyed them, rather than turning them over to the State Department. The emails haven’t been made available to the public yet, so it’s impossible to say whether their contents made them good candidates for “the shredder.”
But we shouldn’t have to rely on inferences to get to the bottom of this. Gowdy will press the State Department to explain this failure to produce documents. Presumably, once it sorts through its stash of documents, State will respond either that it has the emails and inadvertently failed to produce them or that it doesn’t have them.
In the latter case, it will be Hillary Clinton who has all the explaining to do.
Democratic members of Gowdy’s committee are trying, preemptively, to attribute the non-production of the Blumenthal emails to the State Department and to exonerate State by claiming that the document request it received differs from the one served on Blumenthal. Elijah Cummings said:
You’ve got to remember that they had several different document requests. Keep in mind documents requested to Mr. Blumenthal, documents requested to State — there were two different wordings.
Politico debunks this line of defense:
But the panel’s initial Dec. 2 request for Clinton’s communications seemed broad, asking for [all] messages “referring or relating to a.) Libya (including but not limited to Benghazi and Tripoli), and/or b) weapons located or found in, imported or brought into, and/or exported or removed from Libya.”
It’s basically the same language that was used in Blumenthal’s May 29 request for documents, which unearthed the new information.
There isn’t wiggle room here. As John Boehner tweeted: “When it comes to Hillary Clinton’s #Benghazi-related emails, it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘all’ is.”