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Pelosi: Benghazi panel is 'fundamentally unfair'

House Minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks answers questions during a press conference on May 9, 2014 in Washington, DC.
House Minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks answers questions during a press conference on May 9, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The new select committee on Benghazi is “fundamentally unfair,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi charged in a letter to Speaker John Boehner. The missive comes as Pelosi mulls the best approach to take to the panel, which her party sees as a partisan effort to tarnish President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Pelosi’s letter referred to an ongoing dispute between Rep. Darrell Issa (R), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on that committee, who has accused Issa of steamrolling the minority.

“Today, we received a proposed Memorandum of Understanding from your staff, and the House Democratic leadership has reviewed it,” Pelosi wrote, referring to GOP plans for the select committee, which was formally established in a vote Thursday. “Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it fundamentally unfair.”

Pelosi had asked that Democrats be given equal representation on the committee, and be allowed to sign off on any subpoenas issued. It was never likely that Boehner would grant those requests.  

Pelosi said at a news conference earlier Friday that the Democratic caucus is split between various approaches to the committee. Some members want to boycott the committee entirely in an effort to deny it legitimacy, calling it a “kangaroo court,” Pelosi said. Others want to participate, in order to try to influence its activities. And still others suggest appointing just one Democrat, so that the party can have access to witness testimony and other details of the proceedings. 

Pelosi said two of the families of the four Americans who died in the 2012 Benghazi attacks have urged her not to “take us down this path again.”

"It's really hard for them," she added. "It's very sad."

Earlier Friday, Boehner named the six rank-and-file Republican members of the committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Democrats were allotted five members.

The Republicans named to the panel are a mix of extreme conservatives and more establishment conservatives. They are Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois, and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.

Boehner’s office even created a slick online graphic with the title “Meet your majority members of the Select Committee on Benghazi”—the latest sign that the panel’s creation is designed in part to excite the conservative base.

A graphic distributed by House Speaker John Boehner's office.