WASHINGTON - A congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya issued subpoenas on Wednesday for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails, which have created a political storm for the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate.
The U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on Benghazi demanded all communications from Clinton related to the incident, in which a U.S. ambassador was killed.
The panel also sent letters to Internet companies telling them to protect any documents relevant to the ongoing investigation, Jamal Ware, communications director for the Benghazi committee, said in a statement.
Representative Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the Benghazi panel, told reporters on Wednesday that within two weeks, he must either have the documents or a "really good explanation" of why they may be delayed.
Clinton's emails caused a political uproar this week after The New York Times reported she may have violated federal rules by exclusively using a personal email account to conduct official business during her four years as secretary.
The drama has been especially fierce because Clinton is expected to announce soon that she is entering the 2016 presidential race.
Republicans also have been scrutinizing Clinton's actions and communications surrounding the Benghazi attack, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed during an assault on the U.S. consulate. Republican lawmakers believe she did not do enough to ensure the safety of Americans in Libya.
Gowdy said his panel initially asked the State Department for emails relating to Benghazi.
"It was only last week that we discovered they can’t produce all of her emails to us because they don’t have all of her emails," Gowdy said of Clinton.
The Washington Post first reported the committee would issue subpoenas on Wednesday.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Benghazi committee, said the Republicans' actions have led him to believe they simply want to attack Clinton. He noted that Colin Powell, the secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, a Republican, had used personal emails.
"I did not want to believe it. But everything I've seen so far ... has led me to believe that this is meant to go after Hillary Clinton. And I think that’s very, very unfortunate," Cummings told reporters.