Clinton subpoena claim undercut by lawyer’s reply

Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Democratic Party of Virginia Jefferson-Jackson dinner June 26, 2015 at George Mason University's Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia.
Fact-checking Hillary Clinton's subpoena claim
02:30 - Source: CNN

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Clinton spokesman tells CNN that Clinton understood the question to be if she was under subpoena when the emails were deleted, this past December.

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy disputes Clinton's claims.

Washington CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton drew Republican fire Wednesday after falsely claiming she had never been subpoenaed for emails from her time as secretary of state.

When CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked Clinton in an exclusive interview on Tuesday about the decision to delete 33,000 emails while under investigation by a House panel, Clinton said other secretaries of state had done the “same thing.”

Keilar asked if her predecessors had also been subpoenaed, to which Clinton responded, “You’re starting with so many assumptions … I’ve never had a subpoena. Again, let’s take a deep breath here.”

But House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy said Wednesday, “It couldn’t be more plain.”

“To state that you never received a subpoena, you did get one, in March. Your lawyer was on notice months before that, that this committee of Congress wanted your work-related emails,” the South Carolina Republican told CNN Wednesday.

Gowdy requested Clinton’s emails last December, but did not subpoena Clinton until this past March, following reports that she had maintained a personal email server.

Clinton lawyer David Kendall responded to the subpoena on March 27, writing that Clinton was awaiting approval from the State Department before providing them to the committee.

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“This letter will respond to (1) the subpoena duces tecum issued by the Benghazi Select Committee to the Hon. Hillary R. Clinton and served by agreement on March 4, 2015,” Kendall wrote at the time.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told CNN that Clinton understood the question to be if she was under subpoena when the emails were deleted, this past December.

“The suggestion was made that a subpoena was pending at the time. That was not accurate,” he said on Wednesday.

“In fact, Trey Gowdy did not issue a subpoena until March, months after she she’d done that review. Further, the subpoena was specifically asking for documents pertaining to Libya and the attacks on our facility in Benghazi, documents which, along with tens of thousands of others, she had already given to the Department of State,” Merrill said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, called Gowdy’s hit Wednesday a “stunt.”

“It appears clear that Secretary Clinton was answering a question about whether she deleted emails ‘while facing a subpoena,’” Cummings said in a statement Wednesday.

Revelations that Clinton conducted government work through a private email server maintained at her New York home have hounded the Democratic frontrunner. Polling has consistently shown worries among voters about Clinton’s trustworthiness, although those same polls have shown her edging out her Republican competitors as well.

Asked by CNN about her trustworthiness, Clinton said, “People should and do trust me.”

Clinton, speaking in first nationally televised interview as a White House contender, argued that previous secretaries of state had used personal email servers and said she had broken no laws relying on her “homebrew” server.

“Well, let’s start from the beginning. Everything I did was permitted. There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate,” Clinton told Keilar. “Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing. And people across the government knew that I used one device – maybe it was because I am not the most technically capable person and wanted to make it as easy as possible.”

CNN’s Chris Frates contributed to this report.