If you’ve been waiting for one of the longest congressional investigations in the history of the United States* to wrap up, today brought some good news – though it comes with a catch.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi closed the book on its investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya on Friday after more than two years of work and incalculable amounts of partisan controversy. […]“Our committee’s work is done,” Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told reporters after the roughly hour-long meeting, which went on behind closed doors and was interrupted by a 40-minute lockdown of the Capitol.
Traditionally, specially organized “select” committees, tasked with investigating major events and tragedies – 9/11, Watergate, the JFK assassination, et al – issue bipartisan reports on members’ findings. That is not the case with the hyper-partisan Benghazi panel: the final vote to approve the Republicans’ 800-page report fell along party lines.
Indeed, every relevant detail surrounding the GOP document contributes to the larger mess. Not only was the investigation conducted in the most brazenly partisan way possible – even the Republican House Majority Leader conceded the committee existed to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign – but the Huffington Post added this morning that today’s final hearing was conducted in secret, despite Democratic requests to open the process up to the public.
“Even its release was marred by partisan gamesmanship, with the committee’s GOP leadership selectively giving it to reporters who were not allowed to reach out to Democrats for comment,” the Huffington Post added. “Democrats didn’t get copies until shortly before it was released widely. And now they can’t raise objections to the report publicly as it’s wrapped up.”
It’s as if House GOP leaders were determined to offer a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation. In one ridiculously lengthy process, Republicans managed to annoy practically everyone: Gowdy’s Benghazi panel bothered the left by conducting a needlessly partisan and divisive process, raising questions that had already been answered by seven other committees, and the panel bothered conspiracy theorists on the right by failing to dig up any useful dirt against Democrats.
But before we move on, note that the headline on The Hill’s piece read, “Benghazi Committee closes the book” – and that’s not entirely right.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, issued a written statement on the ostensible end of the investigation. The rules of the process prohibit Cummings from publicly discussing anything that occurred during the closed-door sessions with his fellow committee members, but the Maryland Democrat did add an important alert to the public: “[T]here is no end in sight for this partisan Benghazi Committee.”
“If you thought a vote today would be the end of this partisan chapter of our history, you would be wrong. The Select Committee is poised to last for months – perhaps until right before the presidential election—and that appears to be the Republican plan.“Republicans have moved the goal post again, and they now plan to delay the end of the Select Committee to make an entirely new request for the executive branch to conduct a classification review of a large volume of documents, the vast majority of which were never used to question any witness and are not even mentioned in their report.”
Cummings added that Republicans will continue to conduct transcribed interviews related to their Benghazi investigation – one is already scheduled for next week – even though future findings won’t be added to today’s finalized report.
In the meantime, GOP conspiracy theorists will very likely ignore the fact that eight congressional committees have resolved every possible angle and answered every possible question – because on the right, conservatives just know that the Obama administration was involved in some dastardly cover-up. It doesn’t matter if the evidence says otherwise; it doesn’t matter that congressional Republicans kept looking for proof that didn’t exist.
Indeed, the NRA is already airing an anti-Clinton Benghazi attack ad, intended to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
* Correction: A couple of alert readers noted that Congress launched a seven-year investigation into WWII defense contracts in the 1940s, which lasted longer than the Benghazi investigation. The Benghazi probe is among the longest in U.S. history, but not the longest. (That said, when it comes congressional scrutiny of specific individual events – Pearl Harbor, 9/11, the Kennedy Assassination, etc. – the Benghazi investigation is, in fact, the longest, a detail Republicans generally prefer to ignore.)