Last week, the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee passed the 700-day mark – the panel has gone on longer than the investigations into 9/11, Watergate, the JFK assassination – and no one can say with confidence when the partisan endeavor will wrap up.
But at some point, the GOP-led committee will issue some kind of report, documenting its findings after one of the longest investigations in the history of the United States. The question of when, exactly, that report will be issued is itself a provocative subject.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who’s led the partisan probe, told Fox News last year that he hoped to finish the work “before 2016,” and as far as he was concerned, the committee’s report wouldn’t “come out in the middle of 2016.” And yet, here we are.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted today that the trajectory of this story is “about to change.”
Gowdy, after blowing through several previous deadlines he set, has said to expect a final report “before summer,” and Republicans say they are drafting it now. In another indication that the rollout is approaching, Gowdy last month stopped giving Democrats transcripts of witness interviews. This move, ostensibly to prevent leaks, diminishes the minority’s ability respond to allegations contained in the majority report.Depending on how long the declassification review takes, the Benghazi report is on track to drop by mid-July, just before Congress recesses for the conventions and at a time when Republicans will be in need of a distraction from the Trump-Cruz standoff. If the review takes longer (they typically last from a few weeks to a several months), it could come out in September, in the campaign’s homestretch.
In case it’s not obvious, let’s note for the record that the Republican report is likely to take aim at one person in particular – and she just so happens to be favored to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
The challenge for the GOP is trying to convince anyone – aside from conspiracy theorists, conservative media outlets, and Hillary Clinton’s Republican critics – that their report, once it’s available, deserves to be seen as a credible assessment of a deadly terrorist attack.
Some congressional Republicans have already admitted the panel is a partisan exercise. Making matters worse, while most investigations like these have traditionally been bipartisan, Milbank noted that the Democratic minority on the Benghazi committee – Dems asked for equal representation, but GOP leaders refused – don’t even expect to read the majority’s report “before it is made public.”
It’s against this backdrop that the committee, whose existence has long been suspect and unnecessary, will release an anti-Clinton document in the middle of a presidential election. If congressional Republicans were counting on the political world taking this seriously, they’re probably going to be disappointed.