Team Hillary just got another unpleasant surprise from the e-mail scandal that has plagued Hillary Clinton for the past eighteen months. This time, it involved the original scandal that produced the e-mail scandal. The State Department admitted in court today that the FBI found 30 e-mails relating to Benghazi among the thousands of deleted e-mails recovered by investigators, the Associated Press reported within the past hour (via Gabriel Malor):
The State Department says about 30 emails involving the 2012 attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, are among the thousands of Hillary Clinton emails recovered during the FBI’s recently closed investigation into her use of a private server.
Government lawyers told U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta Tuesday that an undetermined number of the emails among the 30 were not included in the 55,000 pages previously provided by Clinton to the State Department. The agency said it would need until the end of September to review the emails and redact potentially classified information before they are released.
And so the Benghazi circle is now nearly complete. Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal erupted as a direct result of the work of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. House Republicans formed the ad hoc panel in the belief that the former Secretary of State and the State Department had not told the entire story about the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. All along, Hillary and her team insisted that they had nothing responsive to investigators and those filing FOIA demands, and that the entire Benghazi probe consisted of rehashed questions already answered.
The new admission from State raises even more questions about the e-mail scandal. The claim from Hillary and her team that the lawyers checked all of her e-mail individually to determine whether they related to official business has long since been debunked. However, one would have expected Hillary and her team to specifically look for materials responsive to Congressional investigations in progress, especially on Benghazi and Libya, even if they were segregating other material by keyword search. Given that the State Department repeatedly argued in court that no such records existed until Hillary’s private e-mail system became public knowledge, the judicial branch may hold State and Hillary to those expectations.
How badly will this damage Hillary? Well, don’t get your hopes too high. The corruption issues between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department should have already forced her out of the race, and yet … here we are. Anything less than an e-mail from Hillary that explicitly describes a cover-up attempt is not likely to derail her candidacy, and it may be that these 30 e-mails are ancillary to the investigation. That doesn’t seem likely either — if they were ancillary, why not turn them over with everything else? — but until we see them, we won’t know.
One thing’s for sure: the House Select Committee will be demanding to see these ASAP, if they haven’t already. It might also add fuel to the fire over potential perjury and obstruction charges relating to Hillary’s Congressional testimony, assuming anything in them contradict her representations there. At the least, Hillary has managed to shoot herself in the foot politically by creating the opportunity for them to be found in this manner rather than turning them over from the beginning, and just when Democrats thought she had finally cleared the Benghazi hurdle. Expect to hear a lot of repeats of previous “witch hunt” accusations against Republicans, but don’t expect them to work much if any or all of those 30 e-mails produce a substantive refutation of Hillary’s narrative on Benghazi.
Update: Edited headline for clarity.
Update: Added hat tip to Gabriel Malor that I forgot to include, and cited the AP.