Democrats to participate in Benghazi panel after all

Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at her weekly news briefing Friday, May 9, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, has announced a list of five Democratic members to serve on the select committee that will investigate the Benghazi attacks. 

The announcement, which came in a press release sent Wednesday afternoon, ends speculation that Pelosi might not name members, or might name only one member, in an effort to deny the panel legitimacy.

Pelosi announced that Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland will serve as ranking member. The other four members are Reps. Adam Schiff and Linda Sanchez of California, Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington.

As ranking member of the House Oversight committee, which also has probed Benghazi, Cummings has clashed repeatedly and theatrically with Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican who chairs the Oversight panel. The choice of Cummings to lead the Democratic group may be a signal by Pelosi that Democrats intend to take a combative approach.

Democrats have portrayed the panel, approved earlier this month by House Republicans, as an effort to score political points against President Obama and tarnish Hillary Clinton, who led the State Department at the time of the 2012 attacks. Four Americans, including Chris Stevens, then the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed in the attacks.

Earlier this month, House Speaker John Boehner named Rep. Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, to chair the committee. Gowdy has already referred to the investigation as a "trial." 

"The Republican members of the Benghazi Select Committee welcome our colleagues named today by Minority Leader Pelosi," Gowdy said in a statement Wednesday. "I respect Mr. Cummings and his work in Congress. I look forward to working with him and the members of the committee toward an investigation and a process worthy of the American people and the four brave Americans who lost their lives in service to our country."