WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats on Wednesday criticized a Republican-led probe of the 2012 attacks on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, as a political assault on Hillary Clinton, citing a possible delay in its final report until 2016, while a related State Department letter seen by Reuters stoked further controversy.
The letter described the investigating committee's "top priority" as collecting Clinton's emails about Benghazi, a disclosure likely to fuel Democratic complaints that the focus reflects a desire to undermine her campaign for president.
Front runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton was secretary of state in 2012 when attacks on a diplomatic facility and nearby CIA base in Libya killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, who chairs the House Benghazi committee, said Wednesday release of the panel's final report could slip to 2016, which would be in the midst of Clinton's campaign for the White House. But he rejected Democratic charges that he was trying to undermine Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He said he was not trying to drag out the probe. "I don't want it to be 2016," he told Reuters, adding he could not say when the report would be done.