Beyond the issue of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for public business, including some classified materials; and beyond the fact that some of the documents continue to be improperly withheld from Freedom of Information requests after years, many more questions have arisen. One of them surrounds the State Department’s removal of Benghazi-related files from the secretary of state’s office a year ago, even though they were under Congressional subpoena.
It goes without saying that subpoenaed records are not to be removed or withheld. But in case there was any alleged confusion, the Benghazi Committee says it was explicit in its instructions: “The requests included standard language that “Subpoenaed records, documents, data or information should not be destroyed, modified, removed, transferred or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee.'”
In a court filing in January, the State Department disclosed that staffers had rediscovered the documents. That much likely wouldn’t be known if it weren’t for a lawsuit filed in 2014 by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch.
Regardless of the explanation, it’s yet another case where federal public documents are not turned over to an investigative body or released to the public until it’s far too late for them to be relevant to active news reports or current events.
To some, the loss and rediscovery of key records might sound familiar.
In 1996, after nearly two years of searches and subpoenas, the White House reported it found copies of missing documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s law firm that described her work for the Whitewater-related Madison S&L in the 1980s. The White House previously said it did not have the records. The originals have not turned up.
In 1993, the White House released an official statement incorrectly saying that no suicide note from Clinton White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster had been found after his death. It turns out a note had been found. And more than 24 hours after its discovery, White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum turned a note over to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Also in 1993, according to a Secret Service official, first lady Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Maggie Williams, removed records from the office of White House Deputy Counsel Foster the night of his suicide. Other Clinton officials, including White House counsel Nussbaum, later testified that they conducted an improper search of Foster’s office. At least one file was marked “Whitewater” and another was marked “taxes.” Another White House counsel, Bob Barnett, later picked up a box of Foster’s documents. Associate counsel Clifford Sloan’s contemporaneous notes cite the Clintons’ initials: “get Maggie—go through office—get HRC, WJC stuff.”
And let’s not forget that in 2014, former Clinton Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell said he witnessed a Benghazi document-sorting session in October 2012 in the State Department basement. He said then-Secretary of State Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and her deputy, Jake Sullivan, were present. No law enforcement body or Inspector General has interviewed Maxwell.
Then there was former civil servant Sonya Gilliam who recounted how, beginning in 1994, then-Clinton White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills, later Hillary Clinton’s top aide, allegedly intercepted documents that should have been produced in response to Congressional subpoenas and Freedom of Information requests. Mills provided no comment when asked.
In a separate case of missing documents, a federal judge referred to Mills’ conduct as a White House official as “loathsome.” He faulted Mills for making “the most critical error in this entire fiasco”: learning of missing White House emails but not taking proper steps to resolve the situation.
READ: Washington Free Beacon article about State Dept. rediscovery of Clinton documents
It’s not just the Clinton administration. There have been plenty of cases of missing documents over the years under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. What’s striking is how easily federal documents can be lost with little ultimate accountability. Some of the same officials allegedly responsible for mishandling materials decades ago have been allowed to remain in the system to allegedly repeat the same behavior again.