Op-Ed: The Farcical End of the Benghazi Committee (Huffington Post)
More than two years ago, when House Republicans first voted to create a Select Committee on Benghazi, I was deeply skeptical of the motives behind its formation. The terrorist attacks in Benghazi were a terrible tragedy, but having already participated in a lengthy, bipartisan and highly professional investigation in the House Intelligence Committee - one of eight other investigations - I saw little evidence that yet another inquiry could add value. I was also concerned that it was a thinly veiled attempt to score political points against a Democratic candidate for President at taxpayer expense, a terrible abuse of Congress’s investigatory power.
Nonetheless, I felt it was possible that the committee could serve some positive and legitimate purpose if it focused its efforts on the status of recommendations following the Benghazi attacks to ensure that they were being implemented and everything was being done to protect our diplomatic facilities overseas. I made this suggestion to Chairman Gowdy, and we held two productive, largely bipartisan hearings in September and December of 2014.
Little did I do know then, that not only would the committee still exist nearly two years after our first meeting, but that those hearings would constitute two of only three substantive public hearings by the committee in its entire existence, the third, of course, being the 11 hour questioning of Secretary Clinton.
Of course, we now know that this committee was formed for a simple reason, which the Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy inadvertently made explicit, and that was to damage the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Secretary Clinton.
This quickly became evident by the way Republicans conducted the committee’s business with constant leaks to the press, unilateral subpoenas, and secret witness interviews. It was evident in the absurd spectacle of the majority dividing up and releasing their report to the selected press while Congress was out of session, having not provided a copy to the minority prior to the release. And it is evident today, in the decision to hold what I can only hope is the committee’s final meeting in a classified setting with no press coverage and no public debate and discussion allowed. However, given Republican plans to conduct a yet another interview - this time with the Pentagon’s congressional liaison, merely out of malice for his truth telling about their politicization of this investigation - no one can be sure.
If the Committee has come to a farcical end, there’s nothing amusing about the precedent we have set by abusing the Congress’s oversight power in the service of narrow political aims that would normally be the purview of the Republican National Committee.
The establishment of a select committee is an extraordinary step, one that should be undertaken only when it’s clear that the standing oversight committees have failed. That was never the case with the tragic attack in Benghazi in 2012.
To the contrary, we had the benefit of exhaustive, bipartisan processes in a variety of committees, as well as through the State Department’s own thorough and highly-critical Accountability Review Board report. That the previous investigations were rigorous and professional is reflected in the fact that even after two years of digging, the select committee found little new evidence to change the broad picture of what occurred in Benghazi on the night of September 11th, 2012, and nothing that altered the core conclusions of the many investigations that went before.
It was my hope that the terrible failure of this select committee would discourage any repetition of such an abuse of process. But with new GOP calls for additional investigations into Secretary Clinton’s emails, the Majority appears to have learned nothing from its 2 year, $7 million debacle.