Did Hillary Clinton destroy evidence in 'wiping clean' her email server?

Friday was the deadline for Hillary Clinton to respond to a congressional subpoena for emails and documents related to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. She provided nothing since her email server had been wiped clean.

Susan Walsh/AP
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill March 3, 2015, about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton using her personal email account for official business.

Behind the saga of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal email account and the messages said to no longer exist is the implication that she has something to hide.

None of her critics – at least those among congressional Republicans pushing her to reveal more – have come right out and said she purposely destroyed politically-damaging evidence that could hamper any plans to run for president next year.

But that’s the impression left among her political rivals, an impression that can be said to be of her own creating.

Friday was the deadline for Mrs. Clinton to respond to a congressional subpoena for emails and documents related to Libya, including the 2012 attack on a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three other American personnel.

The subpoena was from the House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) of South Carolina. Rep. Gowdy’s statement Friday is worth reading in its entirety:

“After seeking and receiving a two week extension from the Committee, Secretary Clinton failed to provide a single new document to the subpoena issued by the Committee and refused to provide her private server to the Inspector General for the State Department or any other independent arbiter for analysis.

“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server.  While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.

“Not only was the Secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest.

“In light of the Secretary’s unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office to permanently delete all emails and because the equities at stake involve not only those of the Select Committee and Congress more broadly, but also those of the American people and their right to the full record of her tenure as secretary of State, we will work with the leadership of the House of Representatives as the Committee considers next steps. But it is clear Congress will need to speak with the former Secretary about her email arrangement and the decision to permanently delete those emails.”

If Benghazi seems a long way off to most Americans, it’s very much at the center of Clinton’s time as secretary of state – and therefore at the center of her record as a potential presidential candidate. Thus do Benghazi and the long-gone emails come together, whether or not those emails would have revealed anything startling.

A CNN/ORC poll earlier this month gives an indication of the challenge she faces.

A slight majority of those polled thinks her use of a private rather than government email system is a “very serious” or “slightly serious” problem, that she’s done something wrong, and that she hasn’t done enough to explain herself. Asked whether the way she handled her email “is an important indicator of her character and ability to serve as president,” 46 percent say “yes” and 52 percent say “no.”

A recent CBS poll is bit better for Clinton, but has the seeds of trouble as well. “Most Americans (65 percent) say their opinion of Clinton has not changed in the wake of the email controversy, but 29 percent say their opinion of her has grown worse,” CBS reported.

Much will depend on how she handles the issue from here on out. Expect Rep. Gowdy to be dogged in his quest for more information.

“The Benghazi panel has already said it will bring Clinton in to testify at least twice – once privately about her email use while at State and at another public hearing on the Obama administration’s reaction to Benghazi,” Politico reports. “The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has also signaled plans to investigate Clinton’s use of private email.”

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