Republican House Speaker John Boehner joined calls for Hillary Clinton to turn over her private e-mail server to an outside arbiter, saying the “American people deserve all the facts.”
Boehner said an outside review is the only way to determine if congressional investigators into the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, have what they need.
“That’s why it’s so important for Secretary Clinton to turn over her personal server to a neutral third party,” Boehner said Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans. “That is the fairest way to make sure we have all of the documents that belong to the public, and ultimately all of the facts.”
Clinton, secretary of state from 2009 until early 2013, used a private email address and a home server while in the job. Her office said March 10 that she gave 30,490 work-related emails to the State Department, which is reviewing them for public release. Another 32,830 e-mails, which Clinton said involved personal matters such as wedding planning or yoga routines, were deleted.
Lawmakers could subpoena her computer equipment to find out if she withheld messages containing government business, which could trigger a legal battle.
“There’s no reason why the House can’t subpoena a former official for records that are in her possession,” said Aziz Huq, a professor at the University of Chicago who teaches and researches constitutional law.
As long as it’s an issue of legislative business or connected with congressional oversight, the Republican-led House has wide leeway to vote to authorize a subpoena for Clinton’s emails and the contents of her server, Huq said. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also could issue subpoenas, but courts give greater weight to those issued from the full congressional body, he said.
In response to demands from Republicans seeking access, President Barack Obama could seek to claim executive privilege, an argument weakened but not entirely undermined by the fact that the emails are from Clinton’s private system on her property in New York, said Mark Rozell, a George Mason University professor of public policy.
“The burden would be on the president and administration to make the case that the release of the e-mails would hurt the national interest,” Rozell, author of a book on executive privilege, said in an interview. “There may have to be some process where the e-mails are reviewed in private.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House’s oversight panel, has said he would prefer not to subpoena Clinton but his panel is looking into the issue of her communications.
The Benghazi committee, led by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, has already subpoenaed the State Department for materials and sent letters to internet service providers to preserve any records they may have.
Gowdy has said that the panel lacks authority to issue a subpoena for the Clinton server, and a vote by the full House may be needed to get the equipment.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill didn’t respond to a request for comment on the possibility of a subpoena. In a press conference last week, Clinton balked at handing over the unit.
“The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private,” she said.