State Department Continues to Defy Subpoena, Citing Bogus, Nonexistent Privileges

June 27, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC-04) released the following statement regarding the State Department’s continued refusal to provide information about the emails and records it is withholding from the committee based on bogus, nonexistent privileges:

“For nearly a year and a half, the State Department has withheld documents and information about Benghazi and Libya from the American people’s elected representatives in Congress. Whatever the administration is hiding, its justifications for doing so are imaginary and appear to be invented for the sake of convenience. That’s not how complying with a congressional subpoena works, and its well past time the department stops stonewalling.”

The Wall Street Journal reported May 13 that, “[c]iting ‘institutional interests’ and ‘confidentiality,’ the State Department has on four occasions chosen to withhold some documents from committee investigators[.]” In his May 11 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Chairman Gowdy noted these are “dubious legal ‘theories’ not recognized by the Constitution,” and gave the State Department until May 18 to provide “a log describing each document that has been withheld, the number of pages, and the legal basis for withholding the document.”

More than five weeks after that deadline, the State Department has still not complied.

The committee has repeatedly sought this information since the State Department first concocted these privileges 16 months ago. A department official told The Wall Street Journal any discussion of claiming executive privilege is premature, saying, “We fully intend to resolve this matter through our ongoing discussions with the committee.” Despite this pledge, the department has on several occasions failed to provide a response when it said it would.

The four Libya-related document productions to the committee the State Department has acknowledged withholding records from included the former Secretary of State’s emails, Accountability Review Board (ARB) records, and emails and records from Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Susan Rice.

The Committee requested the records in question on November 18, 2014, and subpoenaed them on March 4, 2015. The Washington Free Beacon reported that despite the State Department being informed subpoenaed records should not be removed or transferred, the Department transferred records for archiving in April 2015, a month after the subpoena was issued. Some documents in this “overlooked” cache were finally produced to the Committee this year, on February 26April 8 and May 5.

The Obama administration’s serial delays in producing documents total more than 10,000 days, the equivalent of over 27 years. Since (and including) New Year’s Eve, the committee has received more than 6,500 pages of documents from the State Department, including over 400 just last month.