Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a campaign event in New York this month. (Seth Wenig/AP)
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said Saturday that she will testify on Oct. 22 before the House select committee investigating her role in connection with the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya — an assertion that was almost immediately challenged by a spokesman for the committee.
Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill announced the date and said her testimony would be public.
But Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee, said the timing is not set because of ongoing negotiations with Clinton’s lawyer over ground rules.
The wrangling is of a piece with months of back-and-forth between the Republican-led committee and Clinton, whose allies accuse the panel of conducting a fishing expedition for damaging material that might be used against her as she runs for president in 2016.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed when militants overran two U.S. compounds in Benghazi in September 2012, in the waning months of Clinton’s term as secretary of state. She has said that she had no direct role in security decisions surrounding the U.S. facilities, but Republican critics claim that her State Department denied protections that might have prevented the attack.
As of Friday, Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, was still negotiating terms for his client’s appearance, Ware said.
“On the grounds of simple fairness and in order to make appropriate preparation possible, the scope of the questioning [should] be consistent with the scope set forth in the resolution establishing the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi,” Kendall wrote Friday, according to an excerpt of the letter that the committee released Saturday.
Clinton had long offered to testify in public, but the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), had initially said he preferred a private interview. Although Gowdy said he was trying to keep the session from becoming a circus, Clinton’s team objected on grounds that a closed session could allow Republicans to selectively leak unflattering details.
Gowdy has also said that he needs more documents from the State Department before he questions Clinton.
The committee on Saturday appeared to reject Kendall’s terms, which included that the scope of questioning be limited and that the hearing date, once set, would
Ware also said in the news release that Kendall had previously agreed that Clinton would answer questions about “her unusual e-mail arrangement,” referring to her use of a private e-mail system for government business, including a server in her home.
“Her e-mail arrangement clearly falls within the scope of the Select Committee’s jurisdiction,” Ware continued.
“The Committee will not, now or ever, accept artificial limitations on its congressionally-directed jurisdiction,” Ware said in the statement. “Once there is an agreement on the date and a better understanding of how, if at all, Secretary Clinton’s lawyer’s latest writing differs from previous ones, the Committee will announce said hearing date.”
Clinton’s lawyer has also accused the committee of trying to drag out its investigation into 2016 to use it as a cudgel against the Democratic front-runner.
Her campaign also said Saturday that it does not want any delay in the release of Clinton's e-mails from the private account she used while she was secretary of state because of “bureaucratic infighting among the intelligence community.”
The inspector general of the intelligence community said he had found information that should have been classified in a small sample of Clinton’s e-mails and made a “security referral” to the Justice Department under a federal law that requires the FBI to be alerted to any possible compromise of national security information.
Clinton addressed questions about her e-mails after a Democratic Party event in Iowa on Saturday, telling reporters, "I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent or received."
She said she had "no idea" what the e-mails cited by the inspector general were about and that it was her desire to be transparent with the e-mails that had led to the dispute.
"What I think you're seeing here is a very typical kind of discussion, to some extent a disagreement between various parts of the government, over what should or should not be publicly released," she said.
Clinton turned over 30,000 e-mails to the State Department after her use of a private e-mail system became an issue. The e-mails are being reviewed for release to Congress and the public.
Vanessa Williams contributed to this report.
Anne Gearan is a national politics correspondent for The Washington Post.