In case anyone’s forgotten, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, already having overseen one of the longest congressional investigations in American history, still exists. In fact, the panel, in its 405th day, has evidently spent over $3.5 million to examine a deadly terrorist attack that’s already been investigated by seven other congressional committees.
The panel’s Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, however, featured a little drama – not during the actual hearing, but as The Hill reported, before the proceedings even began.
Former House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tried to crash former Hillary Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal’s deposition before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Tuesday.Issa marched into the closed-door deposition and remained inside for about a minute before he was escorted out by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). The pair briefly exchanged hushed words in a nearby hallway before Issa stormed off, throwing an empty soda can into a nearby trash bin.
There’s a brief video of the exchange, captured by NBC News’ Frank Thorp. For those who can’t watch clips online, the video shows Issa leaving the hearing room, exchanging a few words with Gowdy, and then storming off while Gowdy gives the “C’mon, don’t be like that” gesture.
It’s worth noting that yesterday’s hearing was a closed-door gathering, unavailable to the public and the press. Issa, whose own Benghazi hearings turned up nothing, apparently wanted to attend anyway, which led Gowdy to remind him that this wasn’t allowed. The far-right Californian clearly wasn’t pleased.
After that drama was over, what did we learn from the hearing itself? Well, it’s an interesting story, actually.
MSNBC’s Aliyah Frumin reported that Blumenthal talked to reporters late yesterday, following nearly nine hours of closed-door Q&A,
“The committee spent hours asking me questions that have nothing to do with Benghazi,” he said. “Many of the questions had to do with politics as far back as the 2008 Democratic primary. So why was I subpoenaed at all before this committee? I am a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton. It seems obvious that my appearance before this committee was for one reason and one reason only and that reason is politics.” He added he hoped his presence “cleared up” a series of misconceptions the committee held.
Committee Democrats have already urged the panel’s Republican leadership to release the transcript of Blumenthal’s testimony, and the emails between Blumenthal and Clinton that apparently led to yesterday’s discussion.
In an odd twist, it seems Blumenthal may not have even written the emails in question.
As for the investigation itself, Gowdy seems to be building on the committee’s original purpose. Politico reported yesterday:
[Gowdy] made clear he aims to look at the administration’s entire policy toward Libya, not just the brief period before and after the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012, that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. And that has put him at loggerheads with the White House and State Department. “They believe we’re supposed to be Benghazi-centered, looking at a couple of days on either side of the Benghazi attacks,” Gowdy says. “But the language of the [House] resolution is pretty clear: We’re to examine all policies and decisions that led to the attacks.”
Hmm. The committee that ostensibly exists to find answers to questions that have already been answered now intends to do foreign-policy analysis?
Remember, if the committee continues its work past January 2016, 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 Gowdy is expanding his focus, he’ll cruise past January easily.