WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are signaling that questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email account while she was secretary of state will follow her into her widely anticipated presidential campaign.
GOP leaders, who control the investigative powers of Congress, say the revelations reaffirm a long-held GOP portrayal of Bill and Hillary Clinton as secretive and playing by their own rules.
Democrats dismiss the accusations as trivial and question whether the emails will resonate with voters in an election 20 months away.
But as the presidential nominating season begins, Clinton’s use of a personal email account for State Department business has stoked questions about transparency that threaten to cloud her early steps as the Democratic Party’s overwhelming favorite White House prospect.
“The American people deserve all of the facts,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. He was responding to an Associated Press report that the computer server that sent and received the secretary of state’s emails — on a private account used for official business — was registered to Clinton’s New York home.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, intends to investigate whether Clinton, by using a personal email account, may have violated federal requirements that written communications of officials are preserved.
The committee will join with a special committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The Benghazi committee first discovered Clinton’s use of a private email address and issued subpoenas Wednesday for Clinton’s emails when she was secretary of state.
The fresh inquiries create a distraction as she prepares to embark on a second presidential campaign amid a thin bench of potential Democratic challengers.
The questions follow recent reports about the Clinton family foundation’s raising of money from foreign governments, while she was the country’s top diplomat, to benefit the nonprofit’s philanthropic mission.
Democrats say the latest probes are throwbacks to the 1990s when they say Republicans overplayed their hands pursuing President Bill Clinton.
“This is part of what will be the onslaught of attacks that are just getting starting,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “It will be attack, attack, attack.”
The Clinton family is no stranger to controversy.
Bill Clinton’s personal and business dealings created a constant swirl of investigations, leading to his 1998 impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Hillary Clinton, as the first lady, was pressed by Republicans in the Whitewater probe of the couple’s real estate investments.
Clinton’s team this week said she acted no differently from her predecessors at the State Department who also used private email addresses. She used a BlackBerry before leading the department and continued to use it after she took the job.
The former secretary of state’s team turned over 55,000 pages of emails from her time at the State Department but had discretion over what was included.
If she emailed someone among the 100 State Department officials with whom she frequently corresponded, they said, it would have been on State Department servers, and Clinton’s office replicated that to ensure it was included in the records.
“I think this is mostly right-wing noise,” Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said by email.
Republicans in the possible 2016 mix have kept relatively quiet on Clinton’s latest challenge to avoid bringing up transparency issues of their own.
Email communication from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, has been the subject of criminal investigations.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned of national security considerations, telling reporters Wednesday that even government emails are vulnerable and presidential campaigns are typically targeted by hackers.
“You shouldn’t put anything in an email that you don’t think is going to be read by a foreign intelligence agency. Especially if you’re the president of the United States, or a candidate for it,” he said.
The email dispute may also fall into a “what goes around, comes around” category of presidential politics.
In 2012, Democrats spent several weeks blasting Republican Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his personal tax records, accusing him of trying to obscure details of his investments and vast wealth. “What is Mitt Romney hiding?” was a frequent refrain from the Obama campaign.
This time, Clinton is the one accused of a lack of transparency.