Lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion could ben­e­fit Clin­ton

Past in­quiries have made vot­ers turn on her op­po­nents, some Repub­li­cans warn.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Evan Halper evan.halper@la­ Twit­ter: @evan­halper

WASH­ING­TON — As Congress pur­sues its lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s miss­ing emails and the role they may have played in the se­cu­rity lapses in the ter­ror­ist attack in Benghazi, Libya, not ev­ery Repub­li­can is de­lighted by the prospect of drag­ging her to Capitol Hill for a skew­er­ing. Some see dan­ger. The Clin­tons have proved adept at turn­ing al­le­ga­tions of mis­deeds in their fa­vor. Voter un­easi­ness with their con­duct has, in the past, yielded to voter dis­taste for the zeal­ous­ness with which Repub­li­cans ex­ploited it.

There are still mem­o­ries of Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s ap­proval rat­ing soar­ing above 64% within months of his im­peach­ment by the House in De­cem­ber 1998. Vot­ers pun­ished Repub­li­cans in the midterm elec­tion a month be­fore the im­peach­ment vote.

“Repub­li­cans have to be cau­tious and not look too overea­ger, po­lit­i­cally, on this,” said Katie Gage, a GOP strate­gist fo­cused on mes­sag­ing that pres­i­den­tial ri­vals might use against Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“Try­ing to turn this into a po­lit­i­cal is­sue and putting it all at her feet will al­low her an op­por­tu­nity to seem like she is be­ing bul­lied,” Gage said of Benghazi.

The Clin­ton team ap­pears to be do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to get Repub­li­cans over­heated.

Last week, the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi’s re­quest for an in­ter­view with Clin­ton in a closed-door hear­ing was cast by her aides as a setup, timed con­ve­niently to leak parts of her tes­ti­mony dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

Clin­ton cam­paign Chair­man John Podesta char­ac­ter­ized news that the com­mit­tee may not fin­ish un­til next year as “the lat­est ex­am­ple in a broad, con­certed ef­fort by Repub­li­cans and their al­lies to launch false at­tacks” on Clin­ton.

There have al­ready been sev­eral gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the 2012 at­tacks in Benghazi that killed U.S. Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens and three other Amer­i­cans. The re­ports did not sup­port al­le­ga­tions that mis­man­age­ment by Clin­ton pre­cip­i­tated the tragedy.

But Repub­li­cans are fo­cus­ing on Benghazi anew af­ter Clin­ton ac­knowl­edged this year that she had con­ducted her busi­ness as sec­re­tary of State on a per­sonal email ac­count, hand­pick­ing which mes­sages to pre­serve for the public record. She erased other mes­sages on the ac­count, which was run from a server in her home.

Those de­tails are tempt­ing to Repub­li­cans ea­ger to em­broil Clin­ton in a ma­jor scan­dal. And on the cam­paign trail, the sit­u­a­tion is pro­vid­ing plenty of red meat for GOP con­tenders.

But in Wash­ing­ton, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are be­ing urged to keep their cool.

No­body wants to re­live those days in the 1990s when a top Repub­li­can in­sisted that Clin­ton aide Vince Foster, whose death was ruled a sui­cide, was ac­tu­ally mur­dered. Then-Rep. Dan Bur­ton (R-Ind.) sug­gested his own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in which he shot a melon, dis­proved the find­ing that Foster had shot him­self in the head.

As Clin­ton’s email scan­dal emerged, GOP me­dia strate­gist Rick Wil­son cau­tioned Repub­li­cans not to blow it. “Try for once to play the long game and help Hil­lary Clin­ton take on wa­ter,” he wrote in Politico last month. “They want you to jack the vol­ume to 11.”

The chair­man of the Benghazi com­mit­tee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), seems to be heed­ing the ad­vice.

“I have made no pre­sump­tion of right- or wrong­do­ing on any­one’s part with re­spect to the Benghazi ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” he said Thurs­day.

The re­mark came as he sent a de­tailed let­ter to Clin­ton’s at­tor­ney that calmly sug­gested it was not his com­mit­tee, but Clin­ton her­self and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, that were drag­ging the process out. He ac­cused them of re­fus­ing to turn over all the doc­u­ments the com­mit­tee was re­quest­ing. He said the hear­ing need not be be­hind closed doors.

“With her co­op­er­a­tion and that of the State Depart­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion, Sec­re­tary Clin­ton could be done with the Benghazi com­mit­tee be­fore the Fourth of July,” Gowdy said.

He pointed out that the State Depart­ment ini­tially failed to dis­close that Clin­ton was rout­ing her email through a per­sonal ac­count and con­trol­ling which mes­sages got pre­served, sug­gest­ing that ear­lier in­ves­ti­ga­tions may have missed some­thing as a re­sult.

Democrats ques­tion Gowdy’s as­sur­ances that he was merely seek­ing to fol­low the facts wher­ever they led. They note his com­mit­tee’s in­quiry is on track to last longer than the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion, Water­gate and the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The Repub­li­cans’ mul­ti­year search for ev­i­dence to back up their Benghazi con­spir­acy the­o­ries has turned up noth­ing,” said Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings of Mary­land, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the se­lect com­mit­tee.

He called it an at­tempt “to drag out this tax­payer­funded search for any­thing they can use against Hil­lary Clin­ton, while their po­lit­i­cal arm raises cam­paign funds off the deaths of four Amer­i­cans.”

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