In a bombshell revelation, the Central Intelligence Agency reached out to Democrats serving on the Select Committee on Benghazi on Saturday, October 17, 2015 to confirm that Chairman Trey Gowdy had altered documents provided to the committee by Hillary Clinton.
Monday, October 5, 2015, all five Democratic Members of the Select Committee on Benghazi sent a letter informing House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (F-SC) that they planned to begin releasing witness interview transcripts, starting with the interview of former State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, in order to correct the public record after numerous inaccurate Republican leaks.
“Despite claims that the Committee would be run with integrity, Republicans have engaged in a series of selective leaks of inaccurate and incomplete information in an effort to attack Secretary Clinton with unsubstantiated or previously debunked allegations,” the Democrats wrote.
On October 7, 2015, Gowdy sent a response to ranking minority member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), stating that he was “disheartened at the nature and tone of Monday’s letter from your Democrat colleagues and you.”
In the letter, Gowdy referred extensively to Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time confidante and adviser to the Clintons, who served as assistant and senior adviser to Bill Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001.
In addition to Sidney Blumenthal’s business interests, Secretary Clinton also apparently received classified information from Blumenthal- information she should have known was classified at the time she received it. In one email, Blumenthal writes “Tyler spoke to a colleague currently at CIA, who told him the agency had been dependent for intelligence from [redacted due to sources and methods].”1 This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but also human lives. Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email to a colleague–debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.1 There may be other instances as well where Secretary Clinton passed on classified information she received from Sidney Blumenthal. [emphasis added]
However, as Newsweek reported on Sunday, the CIA informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Saturday that Gowdy’s claims were false:
Indeed, according to committee correspondence reviewed by Newsweek, the CIA did tell the panel on Saturday that it had reviewed 127 emails between Clinton and her close friend and outside adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, and none of it was deemed classified.
“The CIA reviewed the material in question and informed State that it required no redactions,” the agency informed Susan Sachsman Grooms, staff director and general counsel for the panel’s Democrats, on October 17.
On Sunday, Cummings sent a letter to Gowdy to correct the public record in light of the fact that the CIA had debunked Chairman Gowdy’s accusations.
Cummings began, writing that: “On October 7, 2015, you sent me a 13-page letter making a grave new accusation against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Specifically, you accused her of compromising national security and endangering lives,” adding that, “The problem with your accusation—as with so many others during this investigation—is that you failed to check your facts before you made it, and the CIA has now informed the Select Committee that you were wrong. I believe your accusations were irresponsible, and I believe you owe the Secretary an immediate apology.”
Cummings went on to accuse Gowdy of making the false claims against Clinton in an attempt to diffuse controversy surround Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s admission that the purpose of the Benghazi hearings was to discredit Clinton.
It appears that your letter was rushed out to the press to counter the public firestorm caused by Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s stark admission that Republicans are using millions of taxpayer dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president. However, your letter only provided further evidence of this fact.
Speaking directly to Gowdy’s accusations against Clinton, Cummings wrote:
In your letter on October 7, 2015, you stated that Secretary Clinton received an email from Sidney Blumenthal on March 18, 2011, that included the name of someone who purportedly provided information to the CIA. You asserted that this information was classified, arguing that Secretary Clinton “received classified information from Blumenthal—information she should have known was classified at the time she received it.” You then alleged:
Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded that email to a colleague—debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.
In your letter, you went to great lengths to highlight the gravity of your accusation, stating:
This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.
Cummings then dropped the bomb – accusing Gowdy of altering documents in an effort to frame Clinton:
To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, “redacted due to sources and methods.” To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines.
Cummings continued, emphasizing the fact that the CIA had thoroughly debunked Gowdy’s false claims against Clinton:
Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified. Specifically, the CIA confirmed that “the State Department consulted with the CIA on this production, the CIA reviewed these documents, and the CIA made no redactions to protect classified information.”
Unfortunately, you sent your letter on October 7 without checking first with the CIA. Now that we have done so, we have learned that your accusations were incorrect.
Cummings concluded his letter, writing that Gowdy’s actions have “brought discredit” on the Benghazi investigation and has “undermine[d] the integrity” of the committee and the House of Representatives itself:
Unfortunately, the standard operating procedure of this Select Committee has become to put out information publicly that is inaccurate and out of context in order to attack Secretary Clinton for political reasons. These repeated actions bring discredit on this investigation and undermine the integrity of the Select Committee and the House of Representatives.
FOOTNOTE 1: Email from Sidney Blumenthal to Hon. Hillary R. Clinton (Mar. 18, 2011) [STATE-SCB0078243].