The House Select Committee on Benghazi might not release its findings about the 2012 attacks until 2016 -- in the midst of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. "Factors beyond the committee's control, including witness availability, compliance with documents requests, the granting of security clearances and accreditations -- all of which are controlled by the Executive branch -- could continue to impact the timing of the inquiry's conclusion," committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in an email.
The congressional committee that investigated the Pearl Harbor attack took about nine-and-a-half months to complete its work. The committee investigating the JFK assassination took about the same amount of time. After the Iran-Contra scandal, a select committee investigated for a little over 10 months.
But the Select Committee on Benghazi has lasted longer than all of them, investigating the deadly 2012 attack for over 11 months. And we learned yesterday, it's on track to just keep going.
The committee -- the eighth congressional committee to investigate the attack -- now expects to wrap up next year, with a report due just a months before the 2016 presidential election.
What a remarkable coincidence. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, called yesterday's announcement "a political charade." Few seem able to argue otherwise with a straight face.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the process would move more quickly if Hillary Clinton were willing to "actually cooperate." Given reality, the Speaker's charge is hard to take seriously.
As Clinton's lawyer reminded the committee yesterday, the former Secretary of State is eager to testify, in a public hearing for all of the world to see, answering -- or in this case, answering again -- lawmakers' questions. Clinton's offer for a transparent Q&A, in front of the cameras, has been pending for months.
And for reasons they have not yet explained, Republicans have refused, saying they only want to talk to Clinton behind closed doors, away from the public eye.
For his part, John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chair, said in a statement last night, "The Gowdy Committee's admission today that it will not finish its investigation until 2016 is the most telling evidence yet that their investigation is solely about playing politics in the 2016 presidential campaign.... Sadly, Republicans are determined to continue to exploit this tragedy in an effort to try and hurt her campaign."
If the committee continues it work past January 2016, as now appears likely, it will be the longest congressional investigation in the history of the United States. The Benghazi committee will last 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.