So much for full transparency and cooperation. The House Select Committee on Benghazi confirms that two e-mails demanded in a FOIA action from Judicial Watch have never been provided to investigators, neither by the State Department nor Hillary Clinton, Politico reports. The e-mails deal directly with the attack and its aftermath, and State insists that it won’t disclose them:
The State Department has not turned over to congressional Benghazi investigators an email exchange between Hillary Clinton and top aides who were prepping the former secretary of state to discuss the 2012 terrorist attack with a U.S. senator.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi has confirmed to POLITICO that it does not have copies of two Sept. 29, 2012, emails between Clinton and her top policy staffer Jake Sullivan, chief of staff Cheryl Mills and spokesman Philippe Reines.
The emails — which surfaced last week in a State Department response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by a conservative group — also mention the talking points for Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to a description of the messages in court documents.
“As non-final drafts, the bodies of these messages consist in their entirety of information that is pre-decisional and deliverable in nature,” wrote State Department top record official John Hackett in response to the lawsuit brought by the conservative group, Judicial Watch.
Judicial Watch has more on the e-mails:
We now have information about an email that directly ties Hillary Clinton, for the first time, to the now-debunked Benghazi talking points used by then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to claim that the attack was the result of a “spontaneous protest” gone awry. The Obama State Department fessed up to the existence of this email in a federal court filing. Showing contempt for transparency, the Obama State Department is refusing to divulge the contents of the email, citing a discretionary “deliberative process” privilege. …
One of the Sullivan documents is an email chain from September 29, 2012, which discussed the talking points, and was originally included in the 55,000 pages of documents Clinton provided to the State Department. The initial email was sent to Clinton’s secret email account and to Mills, while the follow-up was sent by Mills to Sullivan and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategic Communications Philippe Reines.
Remember what I said earlier about “persistence”? Stay with me; this is where the search for the truth runs into considerable opposition.
An unnamed agency staffer initially determined at an unknown time that a “talking points” email was not relevant to Judicial Watch’s request for emails about the Benghazi “talking points.” The Clinton email then was withheld from Judicial Watch. Confusingly, the State Department told the court this week that “the later message [turned over by Sullivan on June 26] in the email chain, which was not sent to former Secretary Clinton, made it clear that one portion of the earlier message had, indeed, been discussing the talking points given to Ambassador Rice.”
The State Department, nevertheless, is withholding the emails under the “deliberative process” exemption to FOIA disclosure. The “transparent” Obama administration tells the court that the release of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi email chain “could reasonably be expected to chill the frank deliberations that occur when senior staff are preparing points or other draft remarks for use by senior Department officials in addressing a matter of public controversy.” As I just told one media interviewer, I interpret this to mean “we can’t give out info about the Obama/Clinton Benghazi cover-up because doing so might scare future corrupt politicians from engaging in cover-ups.” (Recall that those now-debunked Benghazi talking points were used by Rice to claim that the attack was the result of a “spontaneous protest.” The Obama administration also sent false talking points about the attack to Congress.)
If the e-mails put Hillary Clinton in the chain of authority for the false talking points, it will make life a little tougher on the campaign trail … assuming the media bothers to ask about it. Hillary herself used the “YouTube video” hoax, most notoriously with the families of the deceased. If the e-mail chain discussed the problems in the talking points and the decision to use knowingly false or unlikely claims, that might be a little more of a game changer — but then we’d have to see the e-mails to know whether that’s the case.
The bigger point here is that we still have not seen a complete record of the events surrounding the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, let alone the failures and lack of preparation that led to it. The State Department is still stonewalling on information that falls clearly within the purview of Congress, if not the FOIA process. That should make it clear that the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton want everything but transparency on its failed Libya policies and handling.