Has the chair of the Benghazi select committee found an evidentiary string worth tugging, or is he just dropping a line in the water? Trey Gowdy has issued subpoenas for the e-mails of a number of aides to Hillary Clinton, both direct and indirect, in an apparent attempt to reconstruct the communications that took place outside of official government systems. Gowdy took a veiled shot at the Accountability Review Board in discussing the subpoenas and the e-mails they never bothered to find:

Congress has subpoenaed the emails of “close to a dozen” people who worked in the State Department for Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, the chairman of the U.S. House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks said on Thursday.

Representative Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee, told Reuters these included aides to Clinton and perhaps “aides to aides.”

“We sent a subpoena to the State Department for emails from a number of individuals within the State Department, other than Secretary Clinton,” Gowdy, a Republican, said in a phone interview. …

Gowdy said the State Department had asked him not to disclose the names of people whose emails were sought. Gowdy has said that without the emails, no congressional committee investigating the Benghazi attack could claim to have issued a definitive report.

That’s a point that has been overlooked in the skirmishes over Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail system. For two years, Hillary and her apologists claimed that the ARB had conducted a comprehensive review of the Benghazi attack, its prologue, and its aftermath, even after a House Oversight Committee investigation showed that the probe was “a charade” from the beginning. Thomas Pickering may claim that it was no whitewash, but he and his panel never bothered to look into the actions of State Department leadership, and apparently were completely unaware that Hillary didn’t use State Department e-mail at all. If one was to look into a massive failure at State, wouldn’t reviewing the communications pertaining to that failure be a key function of an investigation — especially since it involved a security waiver that only the Secretary was authorized to issue? That’s even more basic than getting the documents before the people involved in the scandal can sanitize the record, no?

CNN’s John King talks with Jackie Kucinich and Margaret Talev about how the e-mail scandal is playing in New Hampshire, a state Hillary won in 2008. Even her supporters are unhappy about the way in which Hillary has handled the controversy, although they’re still “cheering at every single word and laughing at all her jokes”:

Gowdy’s subpoenas sound like a return to investigative basics — attempting to reconstruct a communication chain after attempts to corrupt it. It might only work if Hillary and her aides were copying other State Department officials on their communications, as Hillary claimed last week, but she and her closest aides apparently used the clintonemail.com server for their own internal messaging. Without the server, Gowdy’s task will be incomplete — and without a full vote of the House, they won’t get the server. The lesson here is that allowing the investigative targets to set up their own probe, even with a fancy name like Accountability Review Board, acts only to provide a whitewash rather than actual transparency.