Putting Hil­lary un­der the spot­light

Keep­ing her tes­ti­mony pri­vate is a strat­egy sure to fail

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jed Bab­bin

Af­ter White­wa­ter, Trav­el­gate, Fi­le­gate, Sandy “the bur­glar” Berger steal­ing doc­u­ments from the Na­tional Ar­chives and Bill’s dal­liance with Mon­ica Lewin­sky, po­lit­i­cal re­porters got a bit lazy be­cause they had to sit back and wait for the next scan­dal to break. The cas­cad­ing Clin­tons al­ways served one up. Some re­porters I know openly yearn for a re­turn to the Clin­ton days. They miss re­marks like what thenSen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina said when Bill’s poll num­bers were fall­ing. There was no rea­son to worry, Mr. Hollings said, be­cause, “If they reach 60 per­cent, then he can start dat­ing again.” The joke il­lus­trated the big dif­fer­ence be­tween the Clin­tons: Bill’s scan­dals were for the tabloids, and Hil­lary’s for the busi­ness page or the po­lice blotter. His were per­verse fun, hers not so much.

Now that the for­mer se­na­tor and sec­re­tary of state is about to de­clare her run for the pres­i­dency, happy days for po­lit­i­cal re­porters may be here again.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email scan­dal is per­fectly con­sis­tent with how the Clin­tons have al­ways done busi­ness: con­trol, con­ceal, mis­lead, deny, cover up and ad­mit only what you must. The only pos­si­ble pur­pose for cre­at­ing her pri­vate email sys­tem was to pre­vent fed­eral record keep­ers from ar­chiv­ing her emails and all those re­porters and his­to­ri­ans from get­ting their hands on what she wrote and did at crit­i­cal times.

Rep. Trey Gowdy’s House se­lect com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Benghazi at­tacks has, so far, frus­trated its own mission by fail­ing to pur­sue the el­e­ments of the at­tacks that se­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tors would. Mr. Gowdy has now in­vited Hil­lary to tes­tify un­der oath, but only in a pri­vate ses­sion, with­out the me­dia or the public present. That is a strat­egy guar­an­teed to fail. Only with the proper foun­da­tion of ev­i­dence and only un­der the spot­lights can the com­mit­tee ob­tain any in­for­ma­tion from Mrs. Clin­ton that might lift the lid un­der which she and Pres­i­dent Obama have cov­ered their ac­tions on Benghazi.

There’s a much bet­ter strat­egy that would lay that foun­da­tional ev­i­dence be­fore the public and get to at least some of the truth about the ap­par­ent cover-up of the Clin­ton-Obama ac­tions in the af­ter­math of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.

The first step would con­sist of two days of public hear­ings dur­ing which wit­nesses all tes­tify un­der oath. The first wit­ness should be Ray­mond Maxwell, a for­mer State Depart­ment deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for Near East af­fairs.

Ac­cord­ing to a Septem­ber 2014 ar­ti­cle by in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter Sharyl At­tkisson, a State Depart­ment doc­u­ment se­lec­tion party was held on a Sun­day by two of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s clos­est staffers, Ch­eryl Mills, Mrs. Clin­ton’s chief of staff who had been a White House coun­sel de­fend­ing Bill Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment, and Jake Sul­li­van, Mrs. Clin­ton’s deputy chief of staff, who had worked on Mrs. Clin­ton’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The first day’s hear­ings would open with a morn­ing of tes­ti­mony by Mr. Maxwell, get­ting him to spec­ify who was present, what they were do­ing and what he was told (and by whom) when he came upon that Sun­day doc­u­ment “party” at the State Depart­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Ms. At­tkisson’s re­port, the staffers who were busy sep­a­rat­ing doc­u­ments had or­ders to sep­a­rate any­thing that would em­bar­rass the “Sev­enth Floor” — i.e., Hil­lary’s of­fice — from ma­te­ri­als that would be made avail­able to the sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent Ac­count­abil­ity Re­view Board in­ves­ti­gat­ing Benghazi, or to Congress.

Af­ter that, the af­ter­noon ses­sion could ob­tain the tes­ti­mony of Ms. Mills and Mr. Sul­li­van, un­der sub­poena and un­der oath, to get their state­ments on the facts of the At­tkisson re­port and Mr. Maxwell’s tes­ti­mony. Any­one who has done a cross-ex­am­i­na­tion knows how to ques­tion hos­tile wit­nesses, as they surely will be. The ques­tions would in­clude: What or­ders did the doc­u­ment sep­a­ra­tors re­ceive, and from whom? What did the or­ders say about spe­cific cat­e­gories of doc­u­ments? What did you tell the staffers they were re­quired to look for? What doc­u­ments were sep­a­rated out, and where are they now? And a lot more. If it takes go­ing into or through the night, the ses­sion should con­tinue un­til that line of in­quiry is ex­hausted.

The sec­ond day would be Hil­lary’s turn to tes­tify. She should also be sub­poe­naed and re­quired to tes­tify un­der oath. The morn­ing ses­sion should get her tes­ti­mony on all of the rev­e­la­tions of the pre­vi­ous day from Mr. Maxwell, Ms. Mills and Mr. Sul­li­van and on all of the other as­pects of the Benghazi attack in the af­ter­noon.

The af­ter­noon ses­sion will be the key. Again, Mr. Gowdy’s Repub­li­cans must be pre­pared to cross-ex­am­ine the most hos­tile wit­ness they’ll ever ques­tion. Ms. Mills and Mr. Sul­li­van can be ex­pected to evade and pos­si­bly lie. Hil­lary can be counted on to sur­pass the oth­ers’ skills do­ing the same.

Ques­tions must in­clude the back­ground to the attack. The Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence’s re­port on Benghazi said there were about 30 ter­ror­ist groups op­er­at­ing in the city at the time of the attack. Why was Am­bas­sador Christo­pher Stevens al­lowed to stay there? What was the CIA do­ing in Benghazi? Most im­por­tant, what con­ver­sa­tions or cor­re­spon­dence (ah, those emails again) flowed be­tween Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama — and among the other top peo­ple in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — as the at­tacks un­folded?

Mr. Gowdy’s Repub­li­cans should be pre­pared for Mrs. Clin­ton to as­sert ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege on any com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween her and the pres­i­dent. If she does that, they will have to ask ques­tions spe­cific enough to tie her down on the de­tails and scope of the claim of priv­i­lege.

There will be few, if any, ad­mis­sions by Mrs. Clin­ton be­cause she and her hus­band are masters of the art of slip­per­i­ness. Still, the hear­ings will be well worth the ex­er­cise. They will, at least, show the public how wide and deep the cover-up re­ally is.

Jed Bab­bin served as a deputy un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense in the Ge­orge H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. He is a se­nior fel­low of the Lon­don Cen­ter for Pol­icy Re­search and the au­thor of five books in­clud­ing “In the Words of Our Enemies.”


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