Yesterday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi began a new phase of its probe into the collapse of America’s policy on Libya. Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, appeared before the panel to detail what she knew about the attack on the compound and the State Department’s response to it. No details of her testimony have emerged, but one Congressman noted that Mills had a few memory problems, especially when Republicans asked the questions:
After the session, Gowdy said, “the dialogue was professional” but that he could not answer any questions.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., a member of the Benghazi committee, told reporters after the hearing that Mills was “very pleasant and professional” and answered all questions but couldn’t remember some things.
He said Mills had “memory lapses” and said it was three years ago, when referring to the night of the attack.Westmoreland said the memory gaps happened more when the committee’s Republican lawyers had questions, without providing further explanation.
Politico’s Rachel Bade had more luck in finding out what Mills told the panel. According to Bade, Republicans grew “alarmed” when Mills told them that she reviewed the Accountability Review Board’s report and asked for changes to it before its publication. The Obama administration has insisted all along that the ARB acted completely independently of State’s influence:
But raising alarms on the right, Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, also told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she reviewed and made suggestions for changes to the government’s official, final report on what happened in Benghazi, according to a separate, GOP source familiar with what she said.
The source said it “call[s] into question the ‘independence’” of the report’s conclusions. …
One of the biggest surprises to the right was that she said she made suggestions to change state’s accountability review board report. The report was supposed to be independent from state officials that may be involved, and the GOP argues top officials should not have had input, long questioning how independent the findings were.
It doesn’t call it into question; Mills’ testimony debunks the claim of independence altogether. That should have been disregarded from the beginning. Let’s not forget that Ambassador Thomas Pickering decided early on to focus on those below the political-appointment rank in the ARB’s investigation, never bothering to interview people like Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of State whose responsibilities included facility security. Now we find out that Pickering apparently ran the report by Mills for her approval and editing, which a truly independent investigation would hardly do. It’s yet another reason for a Congressional investigation into Benghazi, and the Libya policies that led up to it.
The original interest in Mills was, as Fox notes, her role in the “talking points” that the Obama administration used for two weeks after the attacks to claim it resulted from a spontaneous demonstration instead of a planned terrorist attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Libya. Now, though, the panel took a great interest in the use and purpose of Hillary’s secret server, which kept much of the internal communications of the Secretary of State from Congressional oversight. On that, Mills apparently held the Team Hillary line:
The longtime family lawyer for the Clintons, who defended Bill during his impeachment days, worked alongside Clinton’s lead lawyer David Kendall of Williams & Connolly to oversee the process whereby they selected which emails should be saved from a homemade personal server Clinton used during her State Department tenure. After the Clinton team finished scouring the messages, they had the server wiped clean, deleting the rest of the contents.
According to the source close to Mills, two employees at Denver-based technology company Platte River Networks originally pulled the messages from the server, and attorneys under Kendall and Mills sifted through the messages to pull anything they thought could constitute a federal record.
Mills testified that they weren’t trying to hide anything when Clinton decided to wipe the server and that they were over inclusive in what they thought might be a work-related message.
There’s only one problem with that explanation: the Benghazi panel found 15 e-mails in Sidney Blumenthal’s records that didn’t get included with Hillary’s records. Mills could not explain that discrepancy, which hardly gives one confidence that the vetting process was as “over inclusive” as Mills insisted.
Mills’ testimony took longer than expected yesterday, stretching into the evening and lasting more than nine hours. Next up will be Jake Sullivan, the deputy chief of staff for Hillary and a man whose name appears on many of the e-mails turned over to State, including one in which he balked at sending material from the classified system to Hillary’s private e-mail:
A day after questioning a former top aide to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton behind closed doors, the House committee investigating the deadly Benghazi attacks expects to question another member of Clinton’s inner circle in closed session.
A former policy director and deputy chief of staff at the State Department, Jake Sullivan, will be questioned Friday in what is expected to be a daylong session.
What will Sullivan tell them? The panel is still focused more on its primary mission of determining what happened in Libya, but they will want to know how and why Hillary blocked Congress’ initial investigation, and apparently tainted the ARB process as well.
Fox News interviews Alan Dershowitz about the legal problems, where both the host and the guest manage to get it wrong. The host leads by saying Hillary sent six Top Secret e-mails, which is wrong; her server had two e-mails with Top Secret information in them, and Hillary herself has sent at least a few e-mails originated by her with classified material in them. Dershowitz is acting like a defense lawyer, but he’s flat out incorrect about classifications and markings in the beginning of this interview. Markings do not make classification — it’s the information that’s classified, and the markings follow it. A failure to mark in this case would be a violation by the transmitter, meaning Hillary Clinton herself, and people with clearances are expected to know what needs to be protected whether it’s marked or not. Further, in 18 USC 793, classification is not a requirement for prosecution, and all it takes is gross negligence, not malice or intent. Other than that, his argument is … solid, baby.
Stick around to the final minute or so, when Dersh launches a broadside against the Iran deal.