Documents Show Benghazi Select Committee’s Role in Glacial Pace
WASHINGTON— According to press reports this week, Rep. Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, may not release his final report until “just months before the 2016 presidential election.” Although he attributes this to delays by the Department of Defense, the State Department, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, documents show the Select Committee’s role in operating at a glacial pace. The Chairman claims to have obtained new information in addition to what was available to previous committees, but this new information is consistent with—and in fact confirms—the conclusions of the Accountability Review Board. The Select Committee’s investigation is on track to last longer than the investigations of Iran-Contra, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, and 9/11, and it will squander more than $6 million in taxpayer funds in the process.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the Select Committee, issued the following statement:
“The Republicans’ multi-year search for evidence to back up their Benghazi conspiracy theories has turned up nothing. The Select Committee has identified no evidence—documentary, testimonial, or otherwise—to support claims that Secretary Clinton ordered a stand-down, approved an illicit weapons program, or any other wild allegation Republicans have made for years. Instead, this appears to be a coordinated attempt by Republicans to drag out this taxpayer-funded search for anything they can use against Hillary Clinton, while their political arm raises campaign funds off the deaths of four Americans.”
Rep. Adam Smith, the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement:
“Republicans claim that Secretary Clinton ordered Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to ‘stand-down’ in Benghazi—a conspiracy theory debunked by previous investigations—yet the Select Committee waited until this month to get around to sending its first document request to the Pentagon. Why in the world does it take 11 months to write a two-page letter? It is beyond me how anyone can continue to think this is a legitimate or responsible investigation of what happened in Benghazi.”
Department of Defense
- During an interview on national television on April 22, Chairman Gowdy was asked why the Select Committee was not moving faster. In response, he stated: “It is whether or not the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, will honor our requests for documents. Some of those requests are as old as two years old.”
- When asked specifically if it was fair to draw an “adverse inference,” he responded: “To the Administration, absolutely. If DOD were not producing documents to us, you could draw that inference. I’m reluctant to draw a negative inference about the Department of Defense or our military. You are right. In the courtroom that happens.”
- In fact, the Select Committee did not issue any document requests to the Secretary of Defense until this month—April 8, 2015—11 months after the Select Committee was established. The Chairman has not explained why it took nearly a year to send a letter to the Pentagon requesting documents that his letter claims “represent critical components of the Committee’s ability to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”
Department of State
- During that same April 22 interview, Chairman Gowdy accused the State Department and the Obama Administration of obstructing the Select Committee’s work:
“President Obama controls the Administration and John Kerry controls the State Department. If they sent a message to the folks that are reviewing our document requests: ‘Give these folks what they need to complete their report, or give them a legal reason why you’re not going to, but quit playing this game about asking for priorities, and what do you need first, and are you sure you really need it. Give ‘em what they ask for.’ This would be done much sooner than 2016.”
- In fact, a letter sent from the State Department to the Select Committee on April 15, 2015, details extensive steps taken by the Department to comply with the Select Committee’s many broad requests:
“Since your Committee’s inception less than a year ago, the Department has provided five briefings, witnesses at each of the Committee’s three hearings, eighteen witness interviews (since February), and over 40,000 pages of documents, many of which were produced in multiple formats at the Committee’s request. We have delivered on these items in the order the Committee has requested.”
- The detailed chronology provided in the Department’s letter also notes that the Select Committee did not submit its first substantive document request until November 18, 2014 –more than six months after the Select Committee was established. The letter explains how Republican staff prioritized the production of Secretary Clinton’s emails, which was the first request in the Chairman’s letter.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Chairman Gowdy has blamed Secretary Clinton for undue delay, but the Select Committee has had her Benghazi-related emails for months. To date, the Chairman has declined to hold a public hearing with Secretary Clinton, despite stating previously that he would do so within 30 days of obtaining her Benghazi-related emails.
- On January 27, 2015, Chairman Gowdy stated:
“[W]hat I’m not going to do, is ask my colleagues to question her when they don’t have all of the relevant documents—her emails, from either account, from how many accounts she had—we don’t have the emails. So, we’re not going do that. It’s up to them [the State Department] how quickly we can do it. I said we would do it within 30 days of you producing the information we need.”
- On August 11, 2014, the State Department began producing documents to the Select Committee that were responsive to prior Congressional requests, including emails to and from Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.
- In October 2014, Secretary Clinton agreed to testify at a public hearing before the Select Committee as early as December 2014.
- On February 13, 2015, the State Department completed its production to the Select Committee of Secretary Clinton’s emails relating to the Benghazi attacks.
- On February 27, 2015, State Department officials confirmed during a meeting with Select Committee staff that they completed their production of Secretary Clinton’s emails relating to the Benghazi attacks.
- Based on Chairman Gowdy’s statements, the Select Committee should have held a public hearing with Secretary Clinton in March.
- Instead, on March 31, 2015, Chairman Gowdy changed course dramatically and requested that Secretary Clinton appear before the Select Committee for a transcribed interview.
- Chairman Gowdy explained the reason for this change was that the New York Times published an article about the Secretary’s use of a personal email account—a fact Select Committee Members had known for more than six months.
- Chairman Gowdy also claimed that one of the reasons for a transcribed interview was to protect Secretary Clinton’s “privacy,” yet she made clear last October that she would testify publicly as early as last December.