What many thought was true has been confirmed this week: The GOP-created House Select Committee on Benghazi is nothing more than a partisan effort to hurt Hillary Clinton and help the Republicans in the 2016 presidential race. At this point the House leadership should do the right thing and offer a public apology to the families of the four Americans killed in that terrorist attack for using their loved ones as props to bolster their political ambitions. Plus, the GOP House leadership should reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the nearly $5 million spent on this “investigation,” which in essence is nothing more than a negative campaign commercial against Hillary Clinton.
The committee’s charade first began to publicly unravel two weeks ago with the remarks of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. While in the comfy confines of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, McCarthy made the case for how a Republican-controlled Congress helps create a “strategy to fight and win” elections.
McCarthy, who at the time was still in the running for the House speakership, explained to Hannity, “Let me give you one example: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy then bragged, “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”
On one hand you have to applaud McCarthy for his brutal honesty. That’s rare today in Washington from politicians in either party.
But McCarthy was not the only Republican insider to tell us this week that the GOP committee is part and parcel of the Republicans’ 2016 campaign to defeat Clinton. We heard that exact sentiment expressed in even greater detail Sunday morning by Maj. Bradley Podliska, a self-described conservative Republican, who served as an investigator for the committee for 10 months.
Podliska explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that the committee leaders’ obsession with Clinton was so acute that they pulled resources away from probes of other individuals and agencies to focus on the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. This troubled Podliska, an intelligence officer, who joined the investigation “to get the truth to the victims’ families.” But he added, thanks to the GOP’s partisan agenda in conducting this investigation, “The victims’ families are not going to get the truth, and that’s the most unfortunate thing about this.”
The use of government apparatus to go after political enemies sounds like something right out of Richard Nixon’s playbook. The difference being that Nixon, when using agencies like the FBI and IRS as political weapons against his rivals, was less obvious and more secretive—until he got caught, of course.
Look, McCarthy and Podliska’s comments simply confirm what many have long believed about this committee’s agenda. After all, before this committee was created in May 2014, there already had been eight congressional investigations into the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, most headed by Republicans.
These thorough investigations answered all the questions surrounding the attack and offered recommendations to try to ensure another like this would not occur. For example, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee report released in February 2014 definitively found that there was no “stand down” order ever given to the CIA or military (despite what Fox News will tell you) that prevented them from trying to save the four Americans killed.
Yet despite these extensive congressional hearings, including the testimony of Hillary Clinton, hundreds of pages in reports generated by both GOP-led and bipartisan committees like the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report released in January 2014, and at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, the GOP-controlled House authorized the current investigation.
At this point, the House select committee’s investigation into Benghazi has spanned more time than the congressional hearings on Watergate and the Warren Commission’s probe into the assassination of President Kennedy, and they are now just two months shy of surpassing the time it took to complete the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.
Now just so it’s clear, some of the Benghazi investigations already conducted have pointed fingers at the State Department and White House. For example, the bipartisan U.S. Senate report concluded that the attack could have been prevented and singled out the State Department for failing to bolster security. That’s certainly a legitimate issue and no doubt it will be raised in the 2016 campaign if Clinton wins the nomination.
But the current House investigation is politics at its worst. They are using the memory of the four brave Americans killed, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for political gain.
And not only should the House leadership reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the $4.5 million spent by this committee, the Federal Election Commission should review the situation to determine if the money would be considered an “in kind” contribution to the Republican National Committee. There could be certain reporting requirements triggered if that were the case.
Hillary Clinton may still testify as planned on October 22 before this committee. If she does, I hope she asks the committee chair Trey Gowdy if he will apologize to the families of the dead Americans. It’s the least the Republicans can do after using the memories of four brave Americans to help bolster their political ambitions.