WASHINGTON — The chairman of a House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi formally requested Friday that Hillary Rodham Clinton turn over her email server for an independent review.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sent a letter requesting that Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, turn over to the State Department inspector general or other third party the server she used for official business while serving as secretary of state. The aim would be to have a third party determine what records should be made public.

“Though Secretary Clinton alone is responsible for causing this issue, she alone does not get to determine its outcome,” Gowdy said in a statement. His request to turn over the server is “in the interest of transparency for the American people,” Gowdy said.

Clinton has pledged that all her work-related email will be made public but has acknowledged deleting thousands of messages related to personal matters. Clinton has said the server “will remain private.”

A Clinton spokesman said Friday that when all her work emails are released, “it will offer an unprecedented opportunity for the American people to see for themselves that they are all there and then some.”

Gowdy set an April 3 deadline for Clinton and her lawyers to respond. If she declines to make the server available, “I will inform the speaker of the House of Representatives so that he can use the full powers of the House to take the necessary steps to protect the best interests of the American people,” Gowdy wrote in a letter to Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall.

House Speaker John Boehner has not ruled out a vote in the full House to force Clinton to turn over the server if she declines to make it available.

Clinton is considered the Democratic front-runner if she decides to seek the presidency, and the high-profile Republican investigations are likely to dog her in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said Gowdy’s letter seemed “designed to spark a fight with a potential presidential candidate rather than follow the standard practice in congressional investigations.”

When congressional Democrats investigated emails sent by White House staffers under President George W. Bush from accounts at the Republican National Committee, they did not demand access to RNC servers or backup tapes, Cummings said.

“We should follow this responsible approach to resolve any remaining questions” about the Clinton emails, he said.

Meantime, the Justice Department said this week that it shouldn’t be required under the Freedom of Information Act to provide emails from Clinton that were sent from or received by her private account. Government lawyers said in a filing to a federal appeals court late Thursday that the FOIA law “creates no obligation for an agency to search for and produce records that it does not possess and control.”

The Justice Department acted on the State Department’s behalf in a lawsuit by Freedom Watch, a conservative group led by Larry Klayman, who has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clintons in the past. Klayman asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to hold the former secretary and top aide Cheryl Mills in criminal contempt in relation to its request for documents.

Klayman says the court also should issue a subpoena for the seizure and production of the computer file server that was used to store and process Clinton’s emails. The Justice Department said the requests should be denied.

Gowdy has set a March 27 deadline for Clinton to respond to a subpoena for emails and documents related to Libya.

Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this story.