As Republicans pound the Benghazi drumbeat, Democratic Rep. John Lewis declared on Monday his fellow congressman from Georgia has “no business” serving on the select committee and formally asked him to drop out of the “partisan investigation.”
In a statement, Lewis called on Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland to resign immediately from his appointment to the GOP-led panel investigating the 2012 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The violence left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
“The House Republican effort to exploit the deaths of those brave Americans is utterly exposed by naming the Deputy Chairman of the NRCC to the Select Committee on Benghazi,” Lewis said in a statement. “Based on his comments this weekend at a political meeting, it seems Rep. Lynn Westmoreland will work to enable House Republicans to further politicize a supposedly sober investigation in an effort to rally the rightwing base. His participation on such a committee is as inappropriate as it is revealing.”
Westmoreland is the National Republican Campaign Committees Deputy Chairman in charge of political strategy. Lewis called this position a “glaring conflict of interest, which would enable him to use the work of the congressional committee for political purposes.”
Republicans have argued many questions on Benghazi require further attention. However, Democrats have accused Republicans of using the attack for political leverage, even jumping at the chance to fundraise off the tragedy.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chair of the Benghazi committee, said he wouldn’t use the panel to raise money. “Even in a culture of hyper-partisanship, [there are] certain things that ought to be above politics, like the murder of our four fellow Americans, and whether or not you can trust what any administration—Republican or Democrat—tells you in the aftermath of a tragedy,” Gowdy told msnbc’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.
That same day, NRCC touted the committee in a fundraising email and asked for donations in a link.
“The fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee is raising money off the creation of this committee is a pretty good indication of the political motivations here,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Last week, House Speaker Boehner named seven Republicans to the select committee, leaving five spots open for Democrats. With the uneven split, it’s still unclear whether Democrats will appoint any members or boycott. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Dem caucus remains split on their approach to participating.
Lewis voted against the formation of the committee, but said Democrats should “be at the table.”