Democrats try to cast doubt on Benghazi investigation
by Evan Wilt
Posted 5/16/16, 03:25 pm
WASHINGTON—Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Sunday made renewed attempts to debunk the investigation into the 2012 terror attack that killed four Americans.
This month marks two years since the panel began investigating what happened before, during, and after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans on the committee continue to request greater transparency from the Obama administration, but Democrats on the panel wrote a letter yesterday claiming—yet again—there’s nothing left to learn in the investigation.
Since forming in May 2014, the committee has obtained more than 100,000 pages of documents from the Obama administration, interviewed more than 100 witnesses, and infamously interrogated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 11 hours. But according to the letter sent to the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the panel’s former chief Republican investigator resolved in January that “nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi.”
“Your evolving list of increasing demands is now putting a strain on the Pentagon that is completely unwarranted, unreasonable, and unjustified,” wrote Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Adam Smith, D-Wash..
The letter went on to say the committee is chasing false leads to drag out the investigation in an attempt to discredit Clinton, whom Cummings has publically endorsed for president, in an election year.
But Republicans on the panel stand by their work and note the letter will not stop the investigation’s progress.
“No matter how many dishonest letters Democrats waste time writing, Republicans will continue conducting a thorough, fact-centered investigation that includes all relevant witnesses, regardless of rank,” Gowdy spokesperson Matt Wolking said.
On May 11, Gowdy called out the State Department for hindering the investigation by withholding documents from the committee.
“Untimely productions coupled with the withholding of documents without explanation creates the appearance of a willful failure to cooperate with a congressional investigation,” Gowdy wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The State Department cited “institutional interests” and “confidentiality” in choosing to withhold information from the committee.
Gowdy said on four separate occasions the State Department has not complied with his requests based on what he calls “dubious legal theories.”
He said it is imperative for the committee to have all relevant information in order to complete the investigation.
In yesterday’s letter, Cummings and Smith said Gowdy should stop pressing the Obama administration for more information because he has ignored germane comments from retired Army Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, who was Gowdy’s chief counsel until January.
According to the letter, during a Jan. 8 interview with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Chipman concluded there was nothing he would have done differently to save those who died in Benghazi.
“I think you ordered exactly the right forces,” Chipman reportedly told Panetta. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”
Cummings and Smith also referred to Gowdy’s requests to look up “useless” witnesses such as an anonymous caller on a talk radio program hosted by Sean Hannity who claimed he was a crew member that helped scramble jets at an airbase, but the alert to respond never came.
In a statement released today, Chipman vouched for Gowdy’s approach to the investigation and disavowed claims Republicans are conducting a wasteful partisan witch-hunt.
“I agree with Chairman Gowdy. If some witnesses refer the committee to other witnesses, the responsible thing to do is interview them,” Chipman said. “The committee has an obligation to the American people to determine what can and cannot be substantiated, so if an individual makes public allegations about Benghazi, the committee should interview that person.”
The panel has not held a public hearing since October, but has continued to review documents and submit requests to the departments of State and Defense.
Gowdy and other Republican committee members said they are wrapping up the investigation and hope to release a final report of their findings by this summer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
<p> <em>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em> </p>
Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.