Rep. Trey Gowdy and Rep. Elijah Cummings arrive as the panel holds its first public hearing to investigate the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 17, 2014.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Benghazi committee springs a curious leak

Three weeks ago, Politico published a fairly long, front-page piece with a provocative headline: “Benghazi panel probes Sidney Blumenthal’s work for David Brock.” At issue, of course, is the House Select Committee on Benghazi, already responsible for one of the longest congressional investigations in congressional history, and its meandering focus.
 
But the Politico article went further than most, highlighting some news that hadn’t been reported elsewhere.
While still secretary of state, Clinton emailed back and forth with Blumenthal about efforts by one of the groups, Media Matters, to neutralize criticism of her handling of the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sources tell POLITICO.
 
“Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear,” Blumenthal wrote to Clinton in an Oct. 10, 2012, email into which he had pasted links to four Media Matters posts criticizing Fox News and Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi attacks and challenging claims of lax security around the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, according to a source who has reviewed the email exchange. Blumenthal signed off the email to Clinton by suggesting that one of her top aides, Philippe Reines, “can circulate these links,” according to the source. Clinton responded: “Thanks, I’m pushing to WH,” according to the source.
 
The emails were not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department.
For the Republican Party’s many Benghazi enthusiasts, the report painted a nefarious picture, based on information the State Department had kept under wraps. Indeed, the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded, “Thanks, I’m pushing to WH,” raised the prospect of Clinton urging the White House to shape its talking points based on Media Matters’ reports – a revelation that might help explain the GOP-led panel’s interest in David Brock.
 
There was, however, a problem: the Politico report wasn’t entirely accurate – or more to the point, the Politico report was based in part on information leaked to the news outlet that turned out to be untrue.
 
This morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the committee, sent a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), making the case that it “it now appears that someone who was given access to the Select Committee’s documents leaked doctored information to the press in order to make unsubstantiated allegations against Secretary Clinton. “
 
By all appearances, Cummings has a very good point. From his letter:
* First, the source claimed that Secretary Clinton wrote “Thanks, I’m pushing to WH” in response to an email from Mr. Blumenthal on October 10. In fact, she did not make that statement in response to this email.  Secretary Clinton was responding to a completely different email more than a week earlier, on October 1.
 
* Second, the source claimed that Secretary Clinton was responding to a suggestion from Mr. Blumenthal that Philippe Reines circulate links to four Media Matters articles that refuted the way the “right-wing media” was covering Republican statements about the Benghazi attacks.  In fact, Secretary Clinton was responding to an email from Mr. Blumenthal forwarding an article from Salon.com reporting that Republicans were planning to claim inaccurately during the presidential debates that the White House had advance knowledge about the Benghazi attacks and failed to act on it.  The article included no reference to Mr. Reines at all.
 
* Third, the source claimed that Secretary Clinton’s email saying “Thanks, I’m pushing to WH” was not turned over by the State Department. In fact, that email was turned over to the Select Committee by the State Department on February 13, 2015, marked with Bates number STATE-SCB0045548-SCB0045550. The Select Committee has had that email for four months.
Politico’s online edition ultimately ran a correction and deleted the sentence about Clinton’s “I’m pushing to WH” email altogether.
 
But Politico obviously didn’t make this up; it relied on a source that provided misleading information, apparently with a specific partisan agenda in mind.
 
To be sure, we’ve grown accustomed to some deceptive leaks from congressional Republicans, especially in the area of Benghazi conspiracy theories, but Gowdy has vowed to run a tight ship. In fact, the South Carolina Republican has specifically boasted, “[S]erious investigations do not leak information or make selective releases of information without full and proper context.”
 
So, what’s the explanation here? And if this leak was bogus, what else has Gowdy’s Republican-run panel leaked to the press that also wasn’t true?
 

Benghazi and Trey Gowdy

Benghazi committee springs a curious leak