Politics & Policy

State Department Asked Hillary to Delete Classified Benghazi E-mail

Undersecretary of State Kennedy on Capitol Hill, September 2013. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

A top State Department official instructed Hillary Clinton to permanently delete a classified e-mail related to the Benghazi terrorist attack, but her lawyer refused because a congressional investigation into her use of a private e-mail server was already underway.

In a May 22 letter to Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy notified the Clinton team that a November 8, 2012 e-mail about a “report of arrests — possible Benghazi connection” was deemed classified and should be deleted. “Once you have made the electronic copy of the documents for the Department, please locate any electronic copies of the above-referenced classified document in your possession,” wrote Kennedy, who served under Clinton at the State Department. “If you locate any electronic copies, please delete them. Additionally, once you have done that, please empty your ‘Deleted Items’ folder.”

Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group that released the correspondence, said that the order to delete the e-mail smacks of a cover-up. “Why on Earth would John Kerry’s State Department tell Mrs. Clinton to delete classified Benghazi records before finding out where and how this material had been disclosed?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “That the State Department asked Clinton’s lawyer to destroy federal records shows a level of disdain for the rule of law that goes beyond the pale.”

In any event, Kendall declined Kennedy’s entreaty, citing requests from two inspectors general and the House panel investigating the Benghazi attacks that he preserve the records. “I therefore do not believe it would be prudent to delete, as you request, the above-referenced e-mail from the master copies or the PST file that we are preserving,” he wrote to Kennedy. “Once the document preservation requests referenced above expire, we will proceed to make the requested deletions.”

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— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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