POLITICS

State Department Turns Over More Documents To Benghazi Panel

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton using her personal email account for official business. A spokesman for Clinton says there was nothing illegal or improper about her use of a personal email account during her time as Secretary of State, rather than a government-issued email address. The practice could hamper efforts to archive official government documents required by law. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) - A House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, has received 4,000 pages of documents from the State Department's official inquiry into the attack, its chairman said on Thursday.

The documents are from the State Department's "Accountability Review Board" (ARB) investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who heads the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement it was the first time the proceedings of a State ARB had been turned over to Congress. He did not discuss their content, but said they would aid the panel's review of the attacks.

POLITICO, which earlier reported that the documents were handed over, said they include emails, internal memorandums and summaries of interviews, and have not been reviewed by other congressional committees investigating the incident that killed the four Americans.

Republicans say the State Department failed to protect diplomatic personnel at the time, when Hillary Clinton - now the presumptive Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race - was secretary of state.

The ARB report, released in December 2012, did not find Clinton responsible for security lapses, but outlined widespread failings within her department.

The State Department has already turned over thousands of pages of other documents to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was named last year. But Gowdy said Thursday he was still waiting for additional records.

He has said that Clinton's first appearance before the committee could occur in the week of May 18.

Democrats say the panel's efforts are politically motivated to undercut Clinton's presidential candidacy.

Gowdy's panel also is investigating Clinton's controversial use of a private email server rather than a government account while at the department.

In a letter reviewed by Reuters last week, the State Department said the committee had said its top priority was collecting Clinton's emails about Benghazi.

Gowdy also said last week the committee's final report could be delayed until 2016, although he would prefer it done earlier.

A cache of Clinton's emails expected to be made public soon do not support Republican accusations that Clinton was involved in efforts to downplay the role of Islamic militants in the deadly attacks, two people familiar with the emails said this week. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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