A House hearing on Thursday on the State Department’s record-keeping became a pitched battle over Hillary Clinton’s private email server, with Democrats accusing Republicans of using the forum to advance a partisan agenda and undermine her candidacy for president.
Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, opened the hearing by condemning Clinton for intentionally making a “mess” of the system for archiving and retrieving documents at State that has frustrated legitimate requests for information from Congress, the media and the public.
“Since 2009, there have been thousands of congressional inquiries, thousands of FOIA requests, subpoenas, (and) media inquiries,” said Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “And if any of those required Secretary Clinton’s federal records, i.e. her emails, there was not a way for those requests to be fulfilled.”
Chaffetz noted, for example, that The Associated Press had to go to court to obtain all the detailed planning schedules from Clinton’s four-year tenure as the nation’s top diplomat.
Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, told the committee the department is improving its records management but continues to struggle with the heavy volume of open-records requests it receives. To fulfill them, State must dig through an ever-increasing quantity of records. An estimated one billion emails flow through the department’s servers annually.
“We get very complex national security document requests,” he said. Kennedy said the department is currently sorting through thousands of records it received from the FBI following its investigation of Clinton.
FBI Director James Comey in July announced the bureau’s recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton and her aides following a yearlong investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information on the private email server she used.
Republicans are focusing on Clinton with a series of hearings on her email practices in the weeks leading up to the November 8 election.
Last year, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., credited the House’s Benghazi, Libya, investigation with wounding Clinton’s public standing. That $7 million, two-year investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks found no wrongdoing by Clinton.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, argued that Clinton’s actions were hardly unprecedented.