Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has argued for months that the House Benghazi Committee is a top-notch, professional enterprise, run in an above-board way. “[S]erious investigations do not leak information or make selective releases of information without full and proper context,” the Republican congressman has said.
It’d be a more comforting sentiment if it were true. We’ve already seen instances in which the GOP-led panel has deliberately leaked deceptive information to the press, and last week, it happened again.
When former State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills agreed to testify, she pleaded with the committee to hold a transparent, public hearing, open for all the world to see, so there’d be no concerns about misleading leaks. Gowdy and his team 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, but Gowdy and his team refused this request, too.
And right on cue, immediately after Mills spoke to committee, the panel that claims not to leak started leaking. Politico had this front-page piece late last week:
Cheryl Mills, a trusted Hillary Clinton staffer who oversaw the release of her emails, told House investigators that no work-related messages had been withheld or destroyed to keep them from public eyes – and Mills said she never knowingly mishandled classified information, a source familiar with her testimony told POLITICO.But raising alarms on the right, Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, also told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she reviewed and made suggestions for changes to the government’s official, final report on what happened in Benghazi, according to a separate, GOP source familiar with what she said.
This latter point refers to the Accountability Review Board (ARB), one of about nine different government panels that investigated the 2012 attack in Benghazi. The trouble is, we already knew the details Mills shared with the committee last week – Ambassador Thomas Pickering explained more than two years ago that the ARB provided a draft to the Secretary of State’s office before its release. He also explained that neither Hillary Clinton nor Cheryl Mills tried to influence the outcome of the investigation.
In other words, what we’re left with is (a) yet another misleading leak; (b) yet another question that’s already been answered; and (c) a new reason to wonder why in the world this committee still exists.
The day after the latest bogus leak, a committee Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who’s also the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said it’s time to end the charade and disband the Benghazi panel.
Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president. […]A committee that cannot tell the American people what it is looking for after 16 months should be shut down. Otherwise, Benghazi will come to be remembered not for the tragedy that claimed four American lives, but for the terrible abuse of process that now bears its name.
As we talked about a few weeks ago, it’s not even clear why the Benghazi committee was created in the first place – unless, of course, House Republicans were trying to create an official, taxpayer-funded fishing expedition targeting Hillary Clinton.
Over the course of two years, the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Libya was already investigated by the independent State Department Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
None of these probes uncovered evidence to substantiate right-wing conspiracy theories, so GOP leaders decided it was time for yet another committee.
But that panel started its work literally 488 days ago. The committee’s work has already cost American taxpayers over $4.3 million.
If the committee continues its work past January 2016, which is a near certainty, it will be the longest congressional investigation in the history of the United States – longer than the investigation into the 9/11 attacks; longer than the Watergate probe; and longer than the Church Commission’s investigation into intelligence-agency abuses.
If anyone has offered a compelling explanation for why this farce should continue, they’ve done an excellent job hiding it.