Congress is still on “recess” (aka vacation), the debt crisis has moved up to November 3 (two weeks after they return), and the rudderless House will concentrate on two “select” committees that have nothing to do with the economy or joblessness. The first, started 17 months ago; the new one continues the House’s attack on women’s reproductive rights.
Three years ago, four men were killed at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi (Libya). Since that time, the GOP House members created eight committees, the most recent a “select” committee, to skewer Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Clinton was exonerated by the first seven, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) proposed the most recent one on May 2, 2014 that has cost taxpayers over $4.5 million already.
Many people already assumed that the purpose of the committee had nothing to do with justice before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted it on a Fox network show. (Maybe he thought only conservatives would notice.) The committee continues to unravel as another GOP representative, Richard Hanna (R-NY), said on the Keeler in the Morning radio show:
“I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
Senior Republican officials had already said that Boehner was using Clinton’s emails on a private server as a way to keep Benghazi alive and create political problems for the presidential candidate.
Committee members face more problems since Bradley F. Podliska, major in the Air Force Reserve, was fired as a former investigator. Podliska claims that he was fired because he was trying to do his job and plans to sue. The self-described lifelong conservative Republican supported GOP claims that the committee wanted to concentrate on Clinton herself, instead of Benghazi. Podliska also said that Benghazi Committee staffers used their time to surf the web and drink alcohol. They had formed a “gun-buying club” and spent work hours designing monogrammed weapons. This from a committee that is supposedly investigating killing.
Committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), said he had never met with Podliska, but the Wall Street Journal wrote that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff. Just last week, however, the committee re-posted a Wall Street Journal piece noting that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff.
Thus far, the committee has had only one of a dozen scheduled interviews and absolutely no hearings of the intended nine. All the hearings except for those with Clinton, including ones with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary Leon Panetta, were cancelled after the New York Times broke its story on March 2 about her emails. Interviews with CIA Director David Petraeus, General Martin Dempsey, General Carter Ham, and former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen were also cancelled. The committee has had no public hearings with anyone from the Department of Defense, but by the end of October, the GOP will have interviewed or deposed eight current or former Clinton campaign staffers.
One person subpoenaed is Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal although Gowdy admitted that he “never expected Witness Blumenthal to be able to answer questions about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” Over 160 questions directed to Blumenthal were about his relationship with Clinton with fewer than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks. Over 50 questions concerned the Clinton Foundation, but only four addressed security in Benghazi.
During the past nine months, Gowdy’s 27 press releases have concentrated on Clinton with only five on any other topic, perhaps because the few interviews he attended were only about Clinton. Three were about the State Department’s compliance with document production, one was about the anniversary of 9/11, and the last was Gowdy’s interim progress report. Since the committee’s inception, Gowdy has publicly released only emails and did so without debate or vote by the Select Committee. Yet he blocked the release of Blumenthal’s deposition transcript.
Part of the GOP smear campaign comes from committee leaks of inaccurate information without full transcripts. Gowdy also hid information from Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills testimony that during the Benghazi attack, Secretary Clinton urged several agencies, including the Pentagon, to do everything they possibly could to save and protect the Americans at the Consulate.
Clinton’s hearing is currently scheduled for October 22, conveniently in the midst of the presidential campaign. Gowdy has said that he won’t release his findings until “just months before the 2016 presidential election.” Meanwhile, the GOP is using the committee and Gowdy’s name to raise donations for Stop Hillary PAC with its sole purpose of attacking Clinton. The conservative PAC America Rising described the attacks as a taxpayer-funded political activity.
Benghazi is so prevalent in the minds of the GOP, that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) focused on it during the House Judiciary Committee Planned Parenthood hearing. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “the contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions….” Yet Gohmert connected the Benghazi deaths and PP while questioning former clinic manager Susan Thayer in this tirade:
“You had people meeting here in America, in Washington, while people were dying! While Ty Woods was gathering David Ubben and Glen Doherty and going to the rooftop to man guns to try to protect the people in those facilities…. Yes, Benghazi was about politics! And we need to get to the bottom of why those four people were killed, while nobody in Washington that knew what was going on lifted a finger!”
The House’s “select committee” to follow up on the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood follows four earlier House investigations. House GOP members surely understand that the unedited footage from these videos would destroy their smear campaign because they held them for at least two weeks, refusing to permit Democratic committee members to view them.
Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is already under fire for his five-hour grilling of PP president, Cecile Richards, when she was interrupted in her answers at least 51 times. He even presented a false—and damning—graph from an anti-abortion organization, making the assumption that he was from PP until he was corrected. He also attacked Richards for making over $500,000 as CEO of a $1.3 billion organization, something that Congress has never done to male CEOs making up to 1,000 times as much.
Every investigation into PP, whether federal or state, found no illegal actions on the part of PP. Chaffetz admitted, “Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any.” Unhappy with the failure to find something that doesn’t exist, the new “select” committee will widen its search into women and abortion, still legal in the United States.
The 14-member panel will investigate not only PP but also privately funded abortions and fetal tissue donations to medical researchers. This time, the GOP picked a woman, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to head the committee. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said, “Planned Parenthood is the new Benghazi,” echoing another position that McCarthy had already provided to the media.
In the past, “select committees” have been used only for highly unusual national events such as the assassination of a president and a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The PP select committee is under the auspices of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which will have members not related to Energy and Commerce and vet these people through outside anti-abortion organizations. At the same time, House Republicans explained that the new committee “won’t be political.”
GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has used the PP falsehoods as support for her campaign. At a conference the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, she talked about the difference between politics and business: “Politics is a fact-free zone. People just say things.” That’s why the GOP has these “select” committees.
One select committee regarding extraordinary events in the U.S. is necessary, one to examine increasing gun violence throughout the United States. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for this committee after ten people died in a college shooting at Roseburg (OR) earlier this month. It’s almost a guarantee that the current House will never okay this committee.
Why isn’t there a select committee to determine why the United States started wars in the Middle East that killed hundreds of thousands of people, including almost 5,000 military members from the U.S.? Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said:
“I haven’t heard a word about Colin Powell. I haven’t heard a word about Condoleezza Rice. In our investigations we went to both of those former secretaries of state and, Colin Powell, we tried to do an investigation of his testimony before the U.N. on weapons of mass destruction.
“You know what, Colin Powell didn’t have a goddamn email available for us. There was zero. Zero. Hillary Clinton, what was it, 30,000 she turned in? It was the same thing with Condoleezza Rice; not a goddamn email that was useful to the committee. And no one wants to talk about that because it’s being run by a Republican chairman.”
The GOP promised to make changes when they were elected a year ago. They did. Congress changed from a highly dysfunctional legislature to being the laughing stock of the world.