WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton wiped "clean" her private server that hosted her emails while secretary of state, permanently deleting all correspondence, and did not turn over more of the messages, lawmakers said Friday.
A simmering scandal over Clinton's admitted use of a private email account for the duration of her four years as President Barack Obama's top diplomat has threatened to mar a spring rollout of her all-but-certain White House campaign.
"We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server," House Benghazi Committee chairman Trey Gowdy said in a statement after Clinton's lawyer wrote to explain why no new emails would be forthcoming from the likely 2016 presidential candidate.
Gowdy had issued a subpoena for all Clinton emails related to Libya, particularly the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, and formally requested she turn over her server to a neutral third party.
It is unclear exactly when Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, but Gowdy said it appears to have occurred after October 28, when the State Department first asked her to hand over the records.
'Unprecedented' deletion of records
In a letter to Gowdy, Clinton lawyer David Kendall wrote that she has already complied with the order to hand over all work-related emails to the State Department.
Now, with that review process complete, "there are no firstname.lastname@example.org emails from Secretary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorised," he said.
Reiterating what Clinton herself had conveyed at a press conference earlier this month, Kendall said Clinton and her legal team determined which emails were personal and unrelated to work - nearly 32,000 emails - and deleted them.
The remaining 30,490 work-related emails were provided to the State Department in December at the agency's request, he said.
Gowdy called Clinton's permanent deletion of her personal records "unprecedented" and said the committee will work with leaders in the House of Representatives on a path forward.
"But it is clear Congress will need to speak with the former secretary about her email arrangement and the decision to permanently delete those emails," he said.
The Benghazi committee's top Democrat Elijah Cummings slammed as a "political charade" Gowdy's persistent call for emails that have already been handed over, and said the Clinton emails provided to the committee on Libya should be made public and that she should swiftly be scheduled for public testimony.