Benghazi committee goes off the rails

 Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speaks to reporters at a press conference on the findings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speaks to reporters at a press conference on the findings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
The existence of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has always been hard to explain, even for those who support it enthusiastically. It's only now that the panel's purpose is coming into sharper focus.
The trouble, of course, is that the committee is wholly unnecessary. Over the course of two years, the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Libya was investigated by the independent State Department Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. None of these probes uncovered evidence to substantiate right-wing conspiracy theories.
And yet, House Republican leaders decided what Congress really needs is another committee to re-do what the other committees have already done.
The explanation is ugly, but increasingly obvious. The Associated Press reported this week that the GOP-led panel "has devolved from an investigation into the deaths of four Americans in Libya into a political fight over Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails and private computer server -- a battle that is likely to stretch into the 2016 presidential election year."
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and his GOP brethren are no longer being subtle about this. Just yesterday, several Democratic members of the committee wrote to Gowdy to remind him of his own Benghazi-related schedule, which Republicans are now ignoring. From the letter:

"At the beginning of this year, Select Committee Republicans provided Democrats with detailed information about their plans to hold 11 hearings between January and October on a wide range of topics relating to the Benghazi attacks. Since then, however, Republicans have completely abandoned this plan -- holding no hearings at all since January and instead focusing on former Secretary Hillary Clinton. Amazingly, the last eight press releases on the Select Committee's webpage deal entirely with Secretary Clinton."

It's almost as if the House's Benghazi committee no longer has any interest in Benghazi.
The Democrats' letter reminds GOP chairman that he released a schedule late last year, sketching out how the committee would proceed in 2015, with specific Benghazi-related hearings planned for each month, from January to October. Yesterday's letter noted, "In 2015, the Select Committee has held only one hearing -- on the status of document production -- in January." The letter added:

"In the past, Republicans have attempted to blame the Select Committee's glacial pace on Secretary Clinton and the State Department. But it seems difficult to understand how they could be responsible for the Select Committee abandoning every single hearing it had planned to hold since January. "It appears that much of the Select Committee's work has been shelved while Republicans pursue every possible avenue of political attack against Secretary Clinton. These actions by the Select Committee -- which lack any legitimate basis -- serve only to delay its work further into the election season and subject it to increasingly widespread criticism for its highly partisan actions."

Daily Kos' Laura Clawson joked yesterday, "Nobody could possibly have foreseen when Republicans set up a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack after all the previous investigations failed to yield a politically satisfactory result that it would turn into a partisan fishing expedition trying to hurt Hillary Clinton.  Oh, wait. Everyone paying even a little attention could foresee that."
It certainly doesn't help that there's compelling proof that the Republican committee has deliberately leaked deceptive information to the press -- intended to embarrass the Democratic presidential candidate -- and Gowdy announced he has no interest in learning how or why this happened.
The committee is now in its 434th day, having spent roughly $3.8 million in taxpayer money
As we noted last month, if the committee continues its work past January 2016, which is a near certainty, 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.