A reported two-month gap in emails from Hillary Clinton's private account during 2012 coincides with a period of escalating violence in Libya and the obtaining of a special exemption by her top aide, Huma Abedin, to work for both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.
The Daily Beast reported late Tuesday that no emails between Clinton and her State Department staff for the months of May and June 2012 are among the estimated 2,000 messages that have been released from the Democratic presidential frontrunner's account.
A State Department spokesman told The Daily Beast that only emails related to the security of U.S. diplomats in Libya or the consulate in Benghazi were turned over to the House select committee investigating the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 attack. If true, that means neither Clinton nor her staff communicated via e-mail during a period that saw three attacks on international outposts in Benghazi, including one on the consulate itself.
That attack, on June 6, 2012, involved the detonation of an improvised explosive device outside of the consulate, prompting the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to warn Americans about the "fluid security situation in Libya." Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed along with three others in the Sept. 11 attack, warned his superiors that "Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya."
Two weeks earlier, on May 22, the International Red Cross office was hit by rocket-propelled grenades. Five days after the consulate bombing, a convoy carrying Britain's ambassador to Libya was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, injuring two bodyguards.
The State Department plans to release Clinton's emails on a regular, monthly basis through January 2016 to comply with an order by a federal judge. The next release is tentatively scheduled for Friday. Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill released a statement saying "More emails are slated to be released by the State Department next week, and we hope that release is as inclusive as possible
The Daily Beast reports that the Benghazi committee has only received one e-mail dating from the two-month period. The message in question was sent in June 2012 by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal and dealt mainly with his business interests in Libya. Security threats to the U.S. diplomatic presence were not mentioned.
Another issue raised by the e-mail gap is the status of Abedin, a longtime aide to Clinton and the wife of former New York congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. The Daily Beast reports that on June 3, Abedin was granted "special government employee" status, allowing her to remain employed by the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, a consulting firm founded by a Clinton ally, and by Hillary herself. The "special government employee" designation prevented Abedin from being subject to some ethics rules.
On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that State Department lawyers identified 68 pages of "potentially responsive" documents in response to a 2013 Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press for details about how Abedin obtained her special employee status. That was the first time the department acknowledged having any documentation about Abedin's arrangement.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Republicans on the House Benghazi committee insisted there was no agreement with Clinton over her possible appearance before the panel, despite an announcement by her campaign that she would testify Oct. 22. Federal investigators said last week they have alerted the Justice Department to a potential compromise of classified information arising from Clinton's private email server.
A memo signed by the inspector general of the intelligence community said the IG's office had identified "potentially hundreds of classified emails" among the 30,000 that Clinton had provided to the State Department and that are now being processed for public release. None of the emails was marked as classified at the time they were sent or received, but some should have been handled as such and sent on a secure computer network, according to a letter to congressional oversight committees from I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for a collection of executive branch agencies that work on intelligence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.