WASHINGTON — The chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, said Tuesday he wants to interview Hillary Rodham Clinton by May 1.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said a recorded interview would help the committee better understand decisions Clinton made "relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records" — namely her emails.
Gowdy said Friday that the former secretary of state had wiped her private email server "clean" and permanently deleted all emails from it.
Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, used a private email account and server during her tenure at State from 2009 to 2013. She has refused Gowdy's request to turn over her server to a third party for an independent review.
Her lawyer, David Kendall, said Friday that Clinton has turned over to the State Department all work-related emails. Kendall also said it would be pointless for Clinton to turn over her server, since "no emails ... reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server."
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said Tuesday that Clinton told Gowdy's committee months ago that she was ready to appear at a public hearing.
"It is by their choice that hasn't happened," Merrill said. "To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public."
Gowdy said Tuesday that it is technically possible in many instances to recover electronic information that has been deleted or overwritten. "It is precisely for this reason a neutral and objective party must have access to the server and related equipment to identify information potentially responsive to relevant laws and investigative requests," he wrote in a letter to Kendall.
Gowdy also reminded Kendall that the server and any associated information, data, backups and equipment "must be preserved wherever they reside and that any further deletion or destruction of data or information must cease."
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said Clinton agreed to testify months ago, in public and under oath, "so the Select Committee's claim that it has no choice but to subject her to a private staff interview is inaccurate."
Rather than drag out what he called a "political charade," Cummings said the committee should schedule a public hearing with Clinton, make her email public "and re-focus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi." Four Americans were killed in the September 2012 attacks, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this story. Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC