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

Dems on GOP’s Benghazi committee start to play hardball

The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/30/15, 9:22 PM ET

Benghazi committee 'is a joke': Congressman Smith

Congressman Adam Smith talks with Rachel Maddow about the admission by Kevin McCarthy that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a political tool to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and whether Democrats, including Clinton, should boycott the…
It’s always interesting to see what happens when a charade ends. For quite a while, congressional Republicans tried to keep up appearances, pretending their Benghazi committee was a legitimate, non-partisan search for truth – a claim no one, anywhere, seriously believed – but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) accidental candor last week ripped off the mask.
There was brief discussion about whether Democrats would simply quit the taxpayer-funded, anti-Clinton fishing expedition in protest, a move Dems ultimately rejected, but that doesn’t mean they plan to sit idly by. The Washington Post reported this morning:
Democrats are taking the unprecedented step of releasing excerpts from a closed-session interview the House Benghazi committee conducted last month with Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, accusing the panel’s Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) of selectively leaking information to damage Clinton in the presidential race.
In a letter sent Monday morning, Democrats on the panel released statements made by Mills from the Sept. 3 interview that paint Clinton in a favorable light. The letter charges Gowdy with failing to provide a fair account of Mills’s interview, alleging that he orchestrated small press leaks designed to produce negative stories about the Democratic presidential front-runner.
In a letter signed by all five Democratic members of the panel, the lawmakers told Gowdy, “It has become obvious that the only way to adequately correct the public record is to release the complete transcript of the Committee’s interview with Ms. Mills…. [W]e plan to begin the process of correcting the public record by releasing the transcript of Ms. Mills’ interview. Since you have indicated your unwillingness to do this in a bipartisan manner, we plan to do so ourselves.”
Let’s back up for a minute to recap for those unfamiliar with the issue surrounding Mills.
About a month ago, former State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills agreed to testify before the Benghazi panel, but she urged the committee’s Republican leaders to hold a transparent, public hearing, open for all the world to see, so there’d be no concerns about misleading leaks. After all, she had nothing to hide and no incentive to keep her testimony private.
As we discussed at the time, Gowdy and the committee’s Republicans refused, insisting that Mills answer questions behind closed doors. Committee Democrats asked for a full transcript to be released to the public and the media – again, so everyone could see exactly what was discussed – but Gowdy and his team refused this request, too.
And right on cue, immediately after Mills spoke to the committee, Republicans leaked misleading information to Politico about her testimony. It was not the first deceptive leak from the panel.
Gowdy once boasted, “[S]erious investigations do not leak information or make selective releases of information without full and proper context.” And yet, that’s precisely what his investigation has done.
This, coupled with McCarthy’s admission last week, appears to have pushed committee Democrats over the edge. They have the transcript – the whole thing, not excerpts edited by Republicans to advance a partisan agenda – and they want the public to have it, too. From today’s letter:
“We do not take this action lightly. We have held off on taking such action for more than a year, but we will no longer sit and watch selective, out-of-context leaks continue to mischaracterize the testimony the Select Committee has received.
“Please notify us within five days if you believe any information in the full transcript should be withheld from the American people. We are providing the State Department and Ms. Mills’ attorneys with this same opportunity.”
I’m not entirely sure what, if anything, Gowdy can do at this point to (a) keep the truth shielded from public view; and (b) punish the Democrats on his committee for going around him.
But as the masquerade ends and the Benghazi committee is exposed as the partisan exercise it has always been, the politics surrounding the scheme are clearly intensifying.

Benghazi and Trey Gowdy

Dems on GOP's Benghazi committee start to play hardball