Hillary Clinton's First Email About Benghazi Is As Jarring As It Was Three Years Ago
Nearly 300 emails belonging to Hillary Clinton's server were released Friday as the Democratic presidential candidate attempts to make her time as secretary of state more transparent. The biggest revelations from Clinton's opened emails comes from the hours soon after the attack. As her staffers sent her memos, Clinton's first Benghazi email was about the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, who were two of four Americans killed.
In the email, Clinton sought the advice of aides J.J. Sullivan, Cheryl Mills, and Victoria Nuland on whether to publicly announce one of the men's deaths. While Clinton's email clearly was sent from her firstname.lastname@example.org, the other three used official "state.gov" accounts.
Cheryl told me the Libyans confirmed his death. Should we announce tonight or wait until morning?
The email's subject line was "Chris Smith" — a combination of the two men's first and last names. It's unclear whether the misname was intentional. Emailed replies suggest Clinton's first email was specifically addressing Smith's death, as Mills later notes:
Everyone will assume the first statement was about Chris so we need to make clear this is a second death and/or name both.
Aides then began to work on prepared statement for Clinton and sent an early draft to her in the morning of Sep. 12, the day after the attack. Clinton's staff later congratulated itself on how her remarks were well-received. "Really nice work guys," said one.
The emails also showed Clinton was aware of increasing tension in Libya in the months before the 2012 Benghazi attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound. But Benghazi wasn't the only topic covered. With just 23 words redacted, the emails provided a glimpse into hundreds of Clinton's personal chats, which ranged from quoting Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" lyrics to asserting that "boys like to play with guns."
So what's the big takeaway from Clinton's first Benghazi email? There was a rush among her staff to quickly address the horrific attack and provide the public some information about the four Americans' deaths. It's a jarring account, one that is chilling even after all these years. Benghazi is still a difficult topic for Americans, particularly for Clinton, who is set to appear before a House panel to testify again about the information her department knew before the attack. The emails, and the thousands more set to come out, will hopefully provide closure on what exactly happened in Benghazi.
Images: FOIA; Getty Images (1)