Do Republicans plan to use the new select committee on Benghazi to raise campaign cash? Depends who you ask.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said Wednesday on msnbc’s Morning Joe that he wouldn’t use the panel, which he will chair, to raise money. “Even in a culture of hyper-partisanship, [there are] certain things that ought to be above politics, like the murder of our four fellow Americans, and whether or not you can trust what any administration—Republican or Democrat—tells you in the aftermath of a tragedy,” said Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican and former prosecutor.
But minutes earlier, the National Republican Congressional Committee had sent out a fundraising email from a website it runs called BenghaziWatchdogs.com. The email touted the establishment of the committee, then linked to a page asking for donations.
“The fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee is raising money off the creation of this committee is a pretty good indication of the political motivations here,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Republicans may not yet be on the same page about the fundraising issue. But they’re moving quickly to get the panel, announced last Friday, up and running.
House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday he decided to create a select committee to probe the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks because a White House email released last week showed that “a line was crossed.”
“I thought, and continued to believe until last week, that our four committees that have been investigating Benghazi have done a very good job,” Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But a line was crossed last week. It was crossed in two places: One when it became clear that the White House played a more significant role in the developments of how they were going to describe this, certainly more than anything that had been disclosed thus far. And then secondly, when it became clear that documents were turned over to a private organization that frankly had been blocked in terms of giving them to us.”
In an email turned over last week to the conservative group Judicial Watch, National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes tweaked talking points in the aftermath of the September 2012 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Rhodes was aiming to portray the event as a spontaneous uprising rather than a planned terrorist attack.
Republicans charge that the White House knowingly deceived the public about the cause of the attacks. The White House has said it was acting on the best information it had at the time.
No clear evidence has emerged to contradict that. But for Republicans, the creation of the select committee offers a chance to damage Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, who was secretary of state at the time of the attacks. A year ago, Clinton saw a significant drop in her overall approval rating—a decline that at least one pollster attributed in part to fallout from the attacks. The creation of the panel also could help motivate conservative voters—who have long been urging Boehner and Co.. to get more aggressive on Benghazi—for this fall’s midterms.
A resolution creating the committee, made public Tuesday night, said it will have seven Republicans and five Democrats. The panel will “conduct a full and complete investigation and study and issue a final report” on “all policies, decisions and activities that contributed to the attacks on United States facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, as well as those that affected the ability of the United States to prepare for the attacks.” It will be voted on Thursday, and is expected to pass easily.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for the committee to have an equal number of members from each party. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the number three Democrat in the House, went further, saying Tuesday he wouldn’t participate unless there’s an even split, saying he wouldn’t be “bringing the noose to my own hanging.” And some Democrats have suggested that the party may boycott the panel in an effort to deprive it of legitimacy.