WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A cache of Hillary Clinton emails expected to be made public soon contains no support for Republican accusations that Clinton was involved in efforts to downplay the role of Islamic militants in the deadly 2012 attacks on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya, people familiar with the emails said.
Two people familiar with the material said this week that the 300 emails do not demonstrate that Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attacks, was personally involved in decisions that resulted in weak security at the Benghazi outposts.
The State Department is expected to make public this week or next Clinton emails about Benghazi that it turned over in February to a Republican-led panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks at the U.S. diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA base. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attacks.
Most of the emails were sent from Clinton’s Blackberry and were cryptic, with few running longer than three or four sentences, said the sources, who requested anonymity.
Some showed Clinton exchanging correspondence with other State Department officials regarding security for a Libyan election that took place in June 2012. But there was no evidence Clinton held detailed discussions about security at U.S. installations in Benghazi in the months before the attacks, the sources said.
David Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer, declined to comment on the emails.
Some Republicans have charged Clinton’s State Department failed to protect diplomatic personnel in Benghazi. In testimony on Capitol Hill in January 2013, Clinton said there had been no effort by the administration to mislead the public.
Democrats have accused the Benghazi panel, led by Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy, of pursuing a politically motivated campaign against Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. A spokesman for Gowdy did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Gowdy’s committee is also probing why the Obama administration claimed for days that the attacks were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islamic film posted on the Internet, even though intelligence indicated within hours that the attacks were the work of Islamist militia members.
The emails show Clinton received updates about the situation in Benghazi after the attacks and about possible U.S. responses, the sources said. But they do not indicate Clinton was involved in steering the administration’s public response away from the notion that organized militants had carried out the attacks, they said.
Clinton has been asked to testify to the special panel convened to investigate the attacks.
The 300 emails are a fraction of approximately 30,000 emails Clinton has given the State Department, which are still being reviewed for release. Republicans have criticized Clinton for using a private server for work emails while she was secretary of state.
Clinton has said she used her personal email account for convenience because she did not want to carry two email devices.
Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Whitesides, Caren Bohan