Ranking Member Cummings’ Opening Statement for Committee Vote
WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, released an opening statement he intents to submit for the record about today’s secret Select Committee debate about its partisan final report:
First, I want to start by honoring the police officers who lost their lives last night in the deadly attack in Dallas. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and I am humbled by their service to our nation, as well as the dedication and service of all of those men and women in blue who put their lives in danger every day to protect us.
On September 11, 2012, terrorists attacked two U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and murdered Ambassador Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
These four men represented the best that America has to offer.
Ambassador Stevens stood with the Libyan people as they fought for freedom and democracy against Muammar Qadhafi. Sean Smith served our nation honorably—first in the United States Air Force, and then in the State Department foreign service. And as former Navy SEALs and working with the CIA, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty dedicated their lives in defense of our nation.
Unfortunately, this investigation has not been worthy of their memory.
After spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds, the Select Committee on Benghazi was one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history.
Today’s events are just another example of that partisanship and dysfunction. Democrats requested to work together on a final draft of the Committee’s report, or even just to let us view a draft of the 800-page report before it was publicly released. However, our requests were denied. Democratic Members did not see the report we are voting on today until last week, after it had been reported on in the news and just hours before the Republican members appeared on a nationally televised press conference touting that report.
While the Democratic Members weren’t invited to that press conference, I had always assumed based on the spirit and the language of the House Rules, we would ultimately debate the Select Committee’s final report in public. But once again, Republicans have taken the opportunity to hide their actions behind closed doors. Apparently, Republicans didn’t want us to fact-check their report before they released it to the public, and they don’t want to have a public debate about the merits of their report today.
Instead, they set up a very public, Republican-only release of their report, only to hide behind closed doors when the Democratic members would get our chance to speak.
That should not be surprising, since Republicans have repeatedly excluded Democrats from key components of this investigation; they have excluded us from interviews, concealed exculpatory evidence, withheld interview transcripts, leaked inaccurate information, and issued multiple unilateral subpoenas.
Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation. They will showcase Republican abuses as a chief example of what happens when politicians are allowed to use unlimited taxpayer dollars—and their Congressional authority—to attack political foes.
To cap it all off, I am told that even after today’s vote, the Select Committee has no end date. Republicans will continue to have an unlimited time and unlimited budget to keep on going. The Committee will continue to exist until 30 days until the Republicans file the final report. But they have refused to set a timeframe for that filing. Instead, it appears that they may be planning to set up administrative hurdles to prevent the shut down of the Committee. We just learned two days ago that they want to send their report through declassification review. That will delay the Committee.
We have also learned that they plan to conduct a transcribed interview of the Department of Defense’s head of their legislative affairs next week. Despite our vote today, they apparently plan to continue to use the power of the Select Committee behind closed doors to do whatever they want to do. And that includes a transcribed interview of someone who knows nothing about the before, during or after of the Benghazi attacks next week. I could not make this up if I tried. So today, I move in our secret session to require them to file the report within five days of when they get the report back from declassification review. Just to set any kind of time limit on their taxpayer-funded abuse of authority.
When we joined this Committee in May 2014, I said that Democrats needed to be in the room to “defend the truth.”
After being repeatedly excluded from key components of the Select Committee’s investigation, we were left with no other choice last week but to release our own report to do just that—defend the truth. It’s a long and substantive report, which answers many questions and makes important recommendations to improve the safety and security of Americans serving our country overseas.
I encourage people to read our more than 300-page report, as it shows how the new details that the Select Committee found really fit into and confirmed the core findings already issued by many previous investigations into the attacks in Benghazi.
Let me end with this, Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty deserve better than this. The American people deserve better than this. We are better than this. And I hope, I pray—that we can learn from this partisan and abusive investigative experience so that we never dishonor the memory of American heroes like this again.