Up until quite recently, House Republicans were investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi on a variety of fronts. The House Oversight Committee, House Intelligence Committee, and House Armed Services Committee were all pursuing parallel probes, while the House Committee on Foreign Affairs asked questions of its own.
When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared that yet another committee was now necessary, it was a not-so-subtle no-confidence vote from the House Republican leadership – these other committees may have been running investigations, but they simply weren’t producing the results the party was hoping for.
The new, select committee would streamline the process, short-circuit the failing investigations that didn’t turn up anything politically damaging, and extend more control to GOP leaders and their hand-chosen investigators. Indeed, Boehner has said more than once, “It was time to bring all of these investigations into one place.”
Yesterday, however, it became clear that someone didn’t get the memo.
A spokesperson for the State Department rebuked the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee on Thursday, after Committee Chair Darrell Issa, a California Republican, yet again issued a subpoena for Secretary of State John Kerry to testify regarding Benghazi. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said the subpoena “was accompanied by a headline-grabbing, highly political tweet attacking the integrity of the State Department itself.”“This is not the way legitimate and responsible oversight is conducted, and it’s a departure from the days when Rep. Issa himself once lamented that a Secretary of State should not be distracted from the work of national security to testify at the barrel of a subpoena,” said Harf.
The subpoena itself was a silly stunt, but it raised an awkward question for Issa personally: does he not realize that his Benghazi witch hunt is effectively over? Why issue a subpoena for an investigation that the House Republican leadership no longer considers viable?
Or as msnbc’s Alex Wagner joked, “Darrell Issa’s subpoenaing of Kerry is like the dude who didn’t get invited to prom throwing a kegger for himself.”
The statement from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, was just as striking:
“I do not understand what the House Republicans are doing on Benghazi, and apparently they don’t either. Just one week after Speaker Boehner said he wanted a single select committee conducting this investigation, Chairman Issa issued a new subpoena today for Secretary Kerry to testify before the Oversight Committee. I don’t know if this is Chairman Issa’s attempt to reinsert himself into this investigation after the Speaker removed him, but this looks more and more like the ‘sideshow’ and ‘circus’ Speaker Boehner said he would not tolerate. The House Republicans can’t get their story straight, and they continue to conduct political fundraising off the murders of four brave Americans – contrary to the pleas of Rep. Gowdy, their own pick for Select Committee Chairman.”
And speaking of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the head of the Republicans’ new Benghazi committee is starting to add staff to his panel, yesterday hiring a lobbyist who used to work at the House Republicans’ campaign committee to be the committee’s staff director.