One GOP-led committee has cleared the White House and State Department of wrongdoing for the deadly attacks on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, but another is still hard at work looking to find fault — and it's spending big bucks to do it.
The House Special Committee investigating the tragic incident will likely spend $1.5 million by the end of the year, USA Today reports. The figure was determined based on what was spent by the committee already, plus estimates for maintaining it's monthly 25-person payroll of about $250,000 a month.
That’s far less than the $3.3 million they budgeted for just eight months after the committee was formed in May, but it’s significantly more than the House spends on 28 staffers on its Veterans Affairs Committee, where the payroll costs $211,000 a month, for instance.
The pricey committee has held just one public hearing this year. It was launched to take the existing GOP-lead investigations — that had been ongoing for a year — to the “next level,” citing “clear and compelling evidence” that the White House had “misled” the country. The 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, are particularly politically charged in part because Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time and she is widely expected to run for president in 2016.
A spokesman for the committee's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, told msnbc in July when the initial budget was released that the request was “the high-end estimate and we expect less will be spent.” She added that the money “comes from already-appropriated Legislative Branch funds" and that it would pay for “salaries for staff, technology, IT Support, publications, and document management for classified information."
But another Republican committee—the House Intelligence Committee — found no evidence of the wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the special committee will conduct what Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger called an "exhaustive" investigation.
“We spent thousands of hours asking questions, pouring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 Committee events and hearings. We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes," they said in a joint statement.
“We also concluded that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks,” the pair said, noting that the “early intelligence assessments and the Administration’s public narrative” was not “fully accurate” but largely clears the administration of wrongdoing and the many allegations and conspiracy theories that have characterized the scandal.
At least one senator has expressed fury and disbelief at the Intelligence Committee’s findings, calling their reporting a “cover up” and suggesting that they are stupid.
“It might be time to rename the House 'Intelligence' Committee,” Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said in an Op-Ed published earlier this week.
“The House Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited Benghazi report Friday, claiming, 'There was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.' This one sentence tells us how seriously we should take this report,” Paul wrote. “Benghazi was the definition of an intelligence failure.”