Nel's New Day

October 21, 2015

Problems Pile onto House Benghazi Committee

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. reacts to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton using her personal email account for official business. A spokesman for Clinton says there was nothing illegal or improper about her use of a personal email account during her time as Secretary of State, rather than a government-issued email address. The practice could hamper efforts to archive official government documents required by law. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Eighteen months ago Trey Gowdy was almost totally unknown, but South Carolina’s U.S. representative has become infamous—and he doesn’t like it. The reason is his position as chair of the “Get Rid of Hillary Clinton” committee, also known as the House select committee on Benghazi. A former prosecutor should have a thick skin, but Gowdy almost cried about what he calls the attacks on his character and motives. He said that these are “1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically—at least it is for me.” These words came from the man who leads the right-wing in attacks on “character” and “motives” of Hillary Clinton.

Some of these attacks emanate from his own party members who point out that the goal of his committee is to keep Clinton from being elected president and that Gowdy is doing very little outside that purpose. One gaffe from the Gowdy team came after their accusation that Clinton released the name of a classified CIA informant in her infamous emails “which could jeopardize … human lives.” To prove his point, Gowdy leaked a redacted email, but the CIA has explained that the information was not classified—and not redacted.

As if that lie weren’t bad enough, Gowdy’s panel leaked the name of a Libyan CIA source in its squabbling with Democrats about the sensitivity of information and Clinton’s private email account. Following criticism from the State Department, Gowdy announced his decision to release documents over the objections of the State Department, making emails between Clinton and Blumenthal without redactions public if the State department doesn’t cooperate with him. House Benghazi Committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in essence that the committee can tell the public anything that it wants. Gowdy is blaming the State Department for its release of sensitive information.

A major question is whether Gowdy and other GOP committee members are acting illegally in their distorting intelligence documents and lying to the public. Twelve years ago, high level GOP officials, perhaps led by Vice-president Dick Cheney, deliberately leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retribution for her husband’s opposition to the Iraq War. “Scooter” Libby took the heat for everyone, was convicted of lying, and then had his sentence commuted by George W. Bush when he was president.

Piling up problems for Gowdy and his committee on Benghazi is a 124-page report from Democrats on the committee based on the “54 transcribed interviews and depositions conducted by the Select Committee.” It “releases key excerpts from unclassified interviews conducted by the Select Committee and calls on Chairman Trey Gowdy to release the full transcripts of all interviews and depositions conducted to date, consistent with classification guidelines.” The summary reports:

“None of the witnesses substantiated repeated claims that Republican Members of Congress and presidential candidates have been making about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the past three years relating to the attacks in Benghazi.”

The Select Committee has not held a single public hearing since January and abandoned its plans for a public hearing with the Secretary of Defense after the New York Times broke the story about Clinton’s private emails. The only documents from the 70,000 pages that Gowdy publicly released are Clinton’s emails with Sidney Blumenthal, contradicting his claims that “serious investigations” do not “make selective releases of information without full and proper context.” Despite selective releases of Blumenthal’s deposition, Gowdy blocked release of the full transcript that would show GOP questions are not related to Benghazi.

Gowdy’s latest excuse for the eighth committee on Benghazi is that earlier committees didn’t have access to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ emails. On November 24, 2014, and December 9, 2014, the State Department produced to the Select Committee approximately 25,000 pages of documents that had already been “previously produced to Congress.” These documents included Stevens’ emails regarding security concerns.


Things may get worse for Gowdy with the revelation that the same person, Dan Backer, acts as treasurer for Themis, Gowdy’s leadership PAC, and STOP Hillary PAC, “created for one reason only—to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States.” Last month, STOP Hillary spent $10,000 on robocalls and other efforts on behalf of Gowdy. Donations from Dan Backer are not new: last April three pro-Gowdy organizations, all with Backer as treasurer, received donations from Backer. Of course, the man who benefits from groups stopping Clinton is investigating Clinton.

The Senate Democratic leadership has asked the Republican National Committee to pay for the almost $5 million thus far spent by taxpayers because the committee is “a political inquisition.”

Clinton has already accepted responsibility for the attack, and seven earlier committees have found no evidence of administration malpractice. Donald Trump also raised the question of why George W. Bush wasn’t responsible for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Jeb Bush has a new answer for that one: it’s Bill Clinton’s fault. The next question should be whether Ronald Reagan was at fault for the over 300 people killed in terrorists attacks on U.S. outposts in Beirut over 18 months of his presidency. The Democrat-controlled house created one commission about 241 dead U.S. servicemen, concluding that there had been “serious command and intelligence failures and said that the mission was not prepared to deal with the terrorist threat at the time due to a lack of training, staff, organization, and support.”

Headlines proudly announced that 44 percent of people weren’t satisfied with Clinton’s responses about Benghazi, compared to 27 percent who say they are. Yet the headlines skipped over the 36 percent of the people who think that the Benghazi select committee is biased, compared to 29 percent who disagree. When Bernie Sanders said in the Democratic debate that America was “sick and tired of hearing” about Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails,” he was right. The 59 percent who agreed increased to 61 percent among registered voters. Only 32 percent want more media coverage, and those are primarily Republican. Almost as many who are tired of the coverage, 52 percent, said that Gowdy was “more interested in going after Clinton” than “learning the facts” about the attack, and 54 percent believe Clinton had the personal email account in order to be convenient rather than hide her behavior.

Tomorrow, October 22, Hillary Clinton is scheduled to appear before the House Benghazi select committee, possibly for eight hours. Unlike other hearings, this one will be made public, and the GOP members will most likely be polite, unlike at the Planned Parenthood hearings, so that they won’t be seen as bullies and further alienate voters. Two important questions about the committee: after three years and seven other committees, what more can they discover? And if four deaths are important, why aren’t there hearings about the increasing numbers of people dying and wounded from gun violence?

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