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Apr 23, 5:54 PM EDT

House Benghazi panel calls Clinton to testify


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday called Hillary Rodham Clinton to testify at a public hearing next month, setting up a high-profile showdown over the Democratic presidential candidate's use of a private email account and server while she was secretary of state.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said he wants Clinton to testify the week of May 18 and again before June 18. The first hearing would focus on Clinton's use of private emails, and the second on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

"With her cooperation and that of the State Department and (Obama) administration, Secretary Clinton could be done with the Benghazi Committee before the Fourth of July," Gowdy said in a statement.

It is necessary to call Clinton to appear twice "because the committee needs to ensure we have a complete and responsive record and all the facts before we then substantively question her on the Benghazi terrorist attacks," Gowdy said.

Gowdy's action comes a day after the GOP-led panel signaled its final report could slip to next year, just months before the presidential election. Clinton is widely considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.

Gowdy spokesman Jamal Ware said on Wednesday that Gowdy wants to complete the panel's work by the end of the year, but said factors including witness availability, compliance with document requests and security clearances "could continue to impact the timing of the inquiry's conclusion."

A lawyer for Clinton said she is prepared to answer questions publicly regarding the Benghazi attacks and her email use as soon as possible.

"There is no reason to delay her appearance or to have her testify in a private interview," lawyer David Kendall said Wednesday in a letter to Gowdy.

Clinton has twice testified before Congress on the Benghazi matter, telling lawmakers in 2013 that she takes responsibility for missteps by the State Department in the months leading up to the assault. But Clinton insisted that requests for more security at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi didn't reach her desk, and reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to fund security-related budget requests.

Gowdy's letter includes more than 100 questions he and other lawmakers may pose to Clinton about her email use, including why she considered using a private server and what was done to vet the companies or individuals who set up the server.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, senior Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said the focus on email comes after "Republicans' multi-year search for evidence to back up their Benghazi conspiracy theories has turned up nothing."

Cummings accused Gowdy and other Republicans of a "coordinated attempt" to "drag out this taxpayer-funded search for anything they can use against Hillary Clinton, while their political arm raises campaign funds off the deaths of four Americans."

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