Sidney Blumenthal didn’t author Benghazi-related memos to Clinton

Washington CNN —  

After nearly nine hours of questioning before the House panel investigating the attacks in Benghazi, a close confidante of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said he answered every question, but shed no light on the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2012.

Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal on Tuesday addressed reporters for the first time since it was revealed that he sent Clinton more than two dozen memos that read like intelligence reports.

Memos, he said, he didn’t author.

The emails have drawn Republican scrutiny because Blumenthal sent them while advising businesses interests in Libya and working with the Clinton Foundation.

Blumenthal said his work for the Clinton Foundation had “nothing whatsoever to do with my emails to my friend.”

In fact, he said, he has no firsthand knowledge of what happened in Benghazi.

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“So why was I subpoenaed at all before this committee? I am a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton. It seems obvious that my appearance before this committee was for one reason and one reason only, and that reason is politics,” he said.

Blumenthal read from a prepared statement and asked that questions be directed to his lawyer, who then told reporters to call him on Wednesday.

The longtime Clinton ally said he told the committee in a closed-door deposition that he “testified about sending some reports written by a respected, former high ranking CIA official I thought would be informative to Secretary Clinton for her to use, or not, as she saw fit.”

House Benghazi Committee chairman Trey Gowdy said it is unclear whether the former CIA official had business interests in Libya – a fact that could have colored the information sent along to Clinton.

“He’s not the author of a single one of those memos. He was passing on information authored by someone else and he has no idea about the credibility or reliability of any of the sources,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy, a Republican, also appeared to challenge Clinton’s explanation that Blumenthal’s emails were “unsolicited.”

“There were several instances where she said, ‘keep it coming,’ ‘this is good stuff,’ ‘greetings from Kabul,’ ‘useful info’ so if that’s consistent with unsolicited, that’s up to you,” Gowdy said.

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Gowdy said his committee received about 60 new emails between Blumenthal and Clinton in response to the committee’s request. The South Carolina Republican told CNN on Tuesday that he plans to release the new emails “sooner rather than later.”

Gowdy called the new emails “eerily similar” to the ones the committee received previously.

The top Democrat on the panel, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, said Gowdy should release the entire transcript of Blumenthal’s deposition along with the emails to provide proper context.

Gowdy told CNN he is open to Cummings’ request but said he’s “releasing the emails no matter what.”

“I need him to explain to me why this witness should be treated differently than any other witness,” said Gowdy, noting that other witness transcripts have not been made public.

For his part, Cummings said, “I’m 100% for releasing the Blumenthal documents only if there is also the release of the transcript of today’s deposition.”

He acknowledged that Democrats don’t have the ability to release the transcript without the GOP’s consent.

During breaks in the deposition on Tuesday, Blumenthal and Gowdy described the tone of the meeting as “civil.”

Democrats complained that the committee has drifted from its mission of investigating the attacks in Benghazi and has become an inquest into Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Cummings on Tuesday recycled a line Democrats have used to describe other committee findings, saying the new emails don’t provide “smoking gun” evidence that Clinton mismanaged the mission in Benghazi or the aftermath of the 2012 attacks that left four Americans dead.

Or, as Democratic committee member Rep. Adam Schiff put it, “If the witness (Blumenthal) wasn’t close to the Clintons, there’s no way he would be here today.”

Earlier this year, the State Department turned over about 300 Benghazi-related emails to the committee. Cummings said one explanation for why Blumenthal produced different emails than the State Department might be that the committee made different requests of the two.

Alec Gerlach, a State Department spokesman, said the department would need to see the emails in order to respond to the discrepancy. The committee, he said, has not yet contacted the State Department about the emails.

“The department is working diligently to publish to its public website all of the emails received from former Secretary Clinton through the FOIA process. We provided the committee with a subset of documents that matched its request and will continue to work with them going forward,” he said. “Secretary Kerry has been clear that the State Department will be both transparent and thorough in its obligations to the public on this matter.”