Republicans abandoned responsibility of Benghazi committee: Linda T. Sánchez and Adam Schiff (Pasadena Star News)

Earlier this month, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy committed what his party would consider the most unforgivable gaffe there is in Washington — he told the truth about Benghazi.

Asked to name the accomplishments of the House Republican Majority, McCarthy praised the Select Committee on Benghazi for its success, not for uncovering any new evidence about the attacks that killed four Americans. He praised it for its success in hurting Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. As another GOP member, New York Rep. Richard Hanna, would confirm only two weeks later: “This may not be politically correct, but I think that there is a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people, an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

The true focus of the committee — to attack the likely Democratic nominee for president — was further confirmed by a GOP whistleblower, Maj. Bradley Podilska, who came forward as a former member of the committee’s majority staff to say that he was fired in part because he complained that the investigation was narrowly focused on Clinton, and her emails.

 

The efforts of Republicans to attack Clinton will come to a head this week as the Benghazi committee will hold only its second hearing all year — and only its fourth hearing in 18 months — when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comes to testify. Republicans will seek to justify the committee’s existence by attacking Clinton about Benghazi, and unrelated complaints about her email.

 

Eighteen months after its establishment, what has been plain to the members of the committee for over a year is now obvious to the public as well — the Benghazi Select Committee has little interest in the events of Sept. 11, 2012, except to the extent that they can be used as a pretext to attack Clinton.

 

In May 2014, we both — along with our Democratic colleagues Reps. Elijah Cummings, Adam Smith, and Tammy Duckworth — agreed to serve on the Benghazi committee. And from the start, we were determined to keep the committee focused on its ostensible purpose, to shed any new light on the circumstances that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and to determine what steps could be taken to protect our personnel overseas in the future.

 

We were skeptical that after nine reports on Benghazi this new panel would add to our understanding, but we were willing to put aside our concerns in the hope that we could get past the partisanship and do the right thing for the victims, the families, and the American people.

 

Sadly, our skepticism proved justified and our hopes, in vain.

 

Now one of the longest investigative committees in congressional history, the Select Committee has become exactly what we feared, a taxpayer-funded arm of the Republican National Committee whose only aim is to damage former Clinton’s reputation.

 

Republicans on the committee have used a series of selective leaks of inaccurate and incomplete information from witness testimonies to create an air of suspicion, manipulate the media and deceive the American people.

 

After spending more than $4.6 million in taxpayer money, the committee has accomplished little, having whittled a list of 10 proposed hearings for 2015 down to just one, Clinton.

 

At this week’s hearing, Americans should expect Republicans will do or say anything to salvage their crippled politically motivated investigation. But it is time to wrap it up.

 

After the Clinton hearing, it’s time to end this massive abuse of Congress’s investigatory powers and taxpayer resources. The $4.6 million it has spent going after Clinton is more than the annual budget for either the House Ethics or Intelligence committees on which we serve as the ranking members.

 

The abuse of Congress’ investigative powers to influence the presidential race has established a terrible precedent for the future. Ending that abuse now will reduce the chance that subsequent majorities in either party are tempted to use Congress’ subpoena power for nakedly partisan purposes. If the committee Republicans continue on this dangerous course, they will likely have to do so alone. Democrats will reconsider how much longer our participation makes sense. We have no interest in lending legitimacy to a committee devoid of any.

 

Reps. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Norwalk, and Adam B. Schiff, D-Burbank, are members of the Select Committee on Benghazi.