United States House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

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The House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi was created after Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner, on May 2, 2014, proposed a House select committee would be formed to further investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack. During that event, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, resulting in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to that country, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. On May 8, 2014, the House voted 232–186 to establish the select committee, with 225 Republicans and 7 Democrats in favor, and 186 Democrats voting against.[1] The chair of the committee is Representative Trey Gowdy from South Carolina.[2]

Background[edit]

Frank Wolf, Republican from Virginia, introduced House Resolution (H.Res.) 36 on January 18, 2013, with 192 co-sponsoring House members, to establish a "select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya."[3] On May 22, 2013, Speaker Boehner, Republican from Ohio, resisted calls to create one saying: saying "I don’t think at this point in time that it’s necessary."[4] He remained confident the four House committees investigating Benghazi—the Armed Services Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Intelligence Committee, and Oversight and Government Reform Committee—were sufficient and that there was no reason to set up a fifth committee, saying "At this point in time I see no reason to break up all the work that's been done and to take months and months and months to create some select committee."[5][6]

“The White House has engaged in a pattern of obstruction - consistently ignoring subpoenas, redacting relevant information and stonewalling investigators. This obfuscation and refusal to come clean to Congress has left us as well as the people of this country wondering what else is the White House hiding?”[7]

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia

In late April 2014, Judicial Watch—a self-described "educational foundation" concerned with "transparency, accountability and integrity in government"[8]—made public previously-unreleased White House emails showing administration adviser Ben Rhodes coordinating a public response strategy after the attack for then-United Nations ambassador for the U.S., Susan E. Rice, recommending she emphasize the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”[5] The email was part of materials, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, that were more comprehensive than those the White House had given congressional panels.[7] A person whom Roll Call identified as a "senior GOP leadership aide" stated that this had been “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for Boehner.[5][7]

Frustrated with what he considered "stonewalling" from the White House, Boehner proposed creation of the special committee May 2, 2014.[5] He stated: “it’s clear that questions remain, and the administration still does not respect the authority of Congress to provide proper oversight. This dismissiveness and evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level.”[5] A growing battle for control of Benghazi investigations between existing House committees may also have been a factor in Boehner's decision to create the select committee.[5] The resolution that passed and created the select committee was generally similar to, but not the same as, the original H.Res. 36. Only seven Democrats "broke ranks" to vote with the majority party to establish the select committee: Ron Barber of Arizona, John Barrow of Georgia, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Patrick Murphy of Florida, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.[9] The Democratic National Committee sent out a statement describing the committee as a "ploy" and "political stunt."[10]

Following passage, on May 12 Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas requested that the United States Senate agree to form a joint select committee on the matter with the House. The suggestion was quickly rejected in the Senate, which unlike the House was under Democratic control.[11] Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had said in November 2012 that Congress should form a special committee—like it had for the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals—to investigate what happened before, during and after the Benghazi attack.[12] On May 15, 2014, he joined 36 other Republican senators calling on Majority Leader Harry Reid to establish a related select committee, saying: “Congressional oversight is crucial to understanding what happened before, during, and after the attacks, so we can be sure we do everything in our power to prevent future attacks."[13]

On May 23, current Secretary of State John Kerry said he would appear before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee,[14] in response to a second subpoena,[15] to "answer questions regarding the Department’s response to Congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks".[16] In response to the State Department's insistence this would be a "one-and-done" appearance,[17] meaning Kerry would not also appear before the select committee, a spokesperson for Boehner said: “We’re glad Secretary Kerry will appear at Oversight. Whether he will also be asked appear (sic) before the Select Committee will be a decision for Chairman Gowdy in the future.”[14] Issa changed course a week later, releasing Kerry from the subpoena, thus nullifying State Department stated concerns about availability of the secretary for a select committee hearing.[18]

Three outside Democratic groups have mobilized to shield Hillary Clinton from any negative impact of the related hearings. The "pro-Hillary Clinton group" Correct the Record, working with the Democratic research super PAC American Bridge have set up the Benghazi Research Center website, a "research hub that is designed like a news site" designed to "issue detailed, rapid responses to charges against Clinton — mimicking the way a campaign would defend a candidate in real time during a presidential debate."[19]

Media Matters, founded by the creator of American Bridge and Correct the Record, has been "aggressively hitting" Fox News—which has extensively covered the Benghazi incident since it occurred—is releasing a new chapter of its The Benghazi Hoax e-book and established a new website of its own "with 1,000 pieces of research aimed at debunking claims related to the Sept. 11 attack."[19]

Members during the 113th Congress[edit]

Chair Trey Gowdy, Republican from South Carolina

Speaker Boehner named the six remaining members of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi on May 9, 2014. The House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. Trey Gowdy had been announced as chair earlier, the 49-year-old, former 16-year federal prosecutor being well-regarded among House conservatives.[20] Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, announced on May 21, 2014, she was naming five members of her caucus to serve on the panel, with Elijah Cummings of Maryland the ranking member.[21]

Majority Minority

Gowdy is a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a former federal and local prosecutor. Roby is chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and led that body's investigations into military activities during the events in Benghazi.[22] She is a former lawyer. Roskam is chief deputy Republican whip, making him the fourth-ranking House Republican behind Boehner. Westmoreland is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Brooks is a former U.S. attorney, Jordan has a law degree, and Pompeo is a former lawyer.[23]

Of the minority members, Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Smith the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, and Schiff a member of the Intelligence Committee.[24] Sánchez is the ranking member of the House Ethics Committee and a former member of the Intelligence Committee, while Duckworth is a wounded and decorated veteran of the Iraq War.[24]

In his first personnel move, Gowdy selected Philip Kiko as majority chief of staff—a former aide to James Sensenbrenner, Republican from Wisconsin, when he was chair of the House Judiciary Committee.[25]

Minority participation question[edit]

House Democrats did not immediately commit to participating in the Benghazi attack investigation select committee. Aides for Boehner and Pelosi engaged in discussions over how the committee would operate, points of contention being shared authority to issue subpoenas, interview witnesses, and determine what can be released to the public. When she finally made the decision that her party would participate in the committee investigation, Pelosi acknowledged: “I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort?”[26]

“It’s a hunting mission for a lynch mob actually, I think that’s what’s going on. There have been four major reports, we spent a year and a half on a report. We held hearings, thousands of pages were reviewed, the staff spent hours and weeks on it."[27]

Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, chair Senate Intelligence Committee

Previously Boehner denied Democratic demands for equal representation on the 12-member panel, broken out 7-5 for the majority party. The percentage of Democrats on the select committee was about the same as on the aggregated four committees previously involved in Benghazi investigations and hearings.[6]

In a letter Pelosi sent to Boehner May 9, 2014, referring to the related House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation under chair Darrell Issa, she stated: "Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses by committed by (sic) Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it ultimately unfair."[23]

Schiff, calling the establishment of a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack a "colossal waste of time," stated Democratic leaders should not appoint any members, stating: "I think it's just a tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources."[28] Rosa DeLauro, Democrat from Connecticut, pushed her party to appoint a single representative, believing: "Such a participant could maintain Democratic access to committee proceedings and material, question witnesses, monitor the House Majority's activities and provide a powerful voice to raise issues and make appropriate public comments."[29] By some reports, supporters of Hillary Rodham ClintonSecretary of State at the time of the attacks, and possible presidential candidate in 2016—urged Democrats to participate fully in the committee to better counteract possible Republican criticism of her.[30]

When on May 21 Pelosi decided to name a full slate of Democrats to the committee, she argued that by selecting senior legislators—most of whom had already been engaged in investigations of the Benghazi attacks—Democrats could have a say in access to pertinent documents and determining the direction of the committee's investigation.[24] Pelosi stated that participation would allow Democrats "to be there to fight for a fair hearing and process, to try to bring some openness and transparency to what’s going on.”[26] Reacting to the minority appointments to the committee, Gowdy commented: "The ones that I know well are very thoughtful and very smart, and I have a great working relationship with them."[30]

Investigation and report[edit]

The expected focus of the investigation by the select committee is on events before, during, and after the actual attack. In particular, the resolution passed by the House states that the scope of the Select Committee's investigation include, but not be limited to:

  1. security decisions and military posture prior to the attack
  2. the terrorist attack that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012
  3. the Executive Branch's response to the attack
  4. the Executive Branch's efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack
  5. the Executive Branch's response to congressional inquiries and subpoenas
  6. recommendations for improving executive branch cooperation and compliance with congressional oversight
  7. lessons learned from the attacks and efforts to protect United States facilities and personnel abroad.[31]

The panel has been assigned a budget of $3.3 million for this investigation and related hearings,[32] which are expected to begin in September 2014, "after members return from the August recess."[33]

Hearings[edit]

“I remain hopeful there are still things left in our country that can transcend politics. I remain convinced our fellow citizens deserve all of the facts of what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi and they deserve an investigative process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens.”[34]

—Chairman Trey Gowdy, in opening statement

The first hearing was held Wednesday, September 17—two years after the attack and four months after the launch of the special investigation. The panel focused on what the administration has done to improve security at U.S. embassies and other diplomatic missions globally,[35] calling Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr, and security experts Todd Keil and Mark Sullivan who had served on a "State Department independent panel."[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "House votes to establish select committee on Benghazi". Fox News. 8 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Lowery, Wesley (5 May 2014). "Boehner taps Rep. Trey Gowdy to lead Benghazi select committee". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "H.Res.36 - Establishing a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya.". CONGRESS.GOV. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Armbruster, Ben (24 May 2013). "Boehner Still Opposes Special Committee To Investigate Benghazi". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fuller, Matt; Newhauser, Daniel (2 May 2014). "Boehner Proposes Creation of Special Benghazi Committee (Updated)". Roll Call. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Date, S. V. (9 May 2014). "Why The Benghazi Committee Is A Rare Win-Win-Win For Congress". NPR. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c French, Lauren (8 May 2014). "House approves Benghazi select committee". Politico. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "About Judicial Watch". Judicial Watch, Inc. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Marcos, Cristina (8 May 2014). "Seven Dems vote to create Benghazi panel". The Hill. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Walker, Hunter (9 May 2014). "Democrats: Benghazi Investigation Is Just A 'Political Stunt'". Business Insider. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  11. ^ -Everett, Burgess (12 May 2014). "Cruz’s Benghazi push blocked". Politico. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Jeffrey, Terence P. (11 November 2012). "Lindsey Graham: We Need Watergate-Type Committee to Investigate Benghazi; Petraeus Must Testify". CNSNews.com. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  13. ^ French, Lauren (15 May 2014). "Republican senators call for Benghazi select panel". Politico. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Dovere, Jake (23 May 2014). "John Kerry agrees to testify on Benghazi attack". Politico. Retrieved 23 May 2014.  |first2= missing |last2= in Authors list (help)
  15. ^ "A new Benghazi subpoena for John Kerry". CBS News. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  16. ^ Miller, Zeke J (23 May 2014). "Kerry To Testify About Benghazi, But Not To Select Committee". Time. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  17. ^ "Secretary of State John Kerry to answer congressional questions on Benghazi attack". The Oregonian. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Cassata, Donna (30 May 2014). "Issa Releases Kerry From Benghazi Testimony". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Haberman, Maggie (16 September 2014). "Pro-Clinton groups gear up for Benghazi hearings". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Newhauser, Daniel (5 May 2014). "Boehner Picks Gowdy for Benghazi Special Committee". Roll Call. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  21. ^ Wasson, Erik; Lillis, Mike (21 May 2014). "Pelosi names Dems to Benghazi panel". The Hill. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  22. ^ Allen, Kim (9 May 2014). "U.S. Representative Martha Roby to Investigate 2012 Benghazi Attack". WTVY. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Davis, Susan (9 May 2014). "GOP moves ahead with Benghazi panel; Democrats balk". USA Today. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c Weisman, Jonathan; Steinhauer, Jennifer (21 May 2014). "Pelosi Picks 5 Democrats for Panel on Benghazi". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  25. ^ Rosen, James (16 May 2014). "Gowdy names Capitol Hill veteran to Benghazi probe". Fox News. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Wasson, Erik; Lillis, Mike (21 May 2014). "Pelosi appoints five Democrats to Benghazi committee to fight ‘abuses'". The Hill. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Munsil, Leigh (18 May 2014). "Feinstein: House Benghazi committee 'ridiculous'". Politico. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  28. ^ Hicks, Josh (4 May 2014). "Schiff: Benghazi select committee a ‘colossal waste of time’". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  29. ^ "Top Dem lawmaker proposes seating just one lawmaker on Benghazi panel". Fox News. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Sherman, Jake; Palmer, Anna (21 May 2014). "Clinton allies pressured Dems on Benghazi". Politico. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  31. ^ "Section-by-Section Analysis". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 11 May 2014.  As linked from "Read The Bill: Resolution to Create Select Committee on Benghazi", Speaker Boehner's Press Office May 6, 2014 Press Release
  32. ^ Troyan, Mary (2 August 2014). "Gowdy: More witnesses to testify on Benghazi". Gannett. Greenville Online. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  33. ^ Trujillo, Mario (12 August 2014). "Benghazi hearing set for September". Capitol Hill Publishing Corp. The Hill. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  34. ^ Pappas, Alex (17 September 2014). "As Benghazi Hearing Gets Underway, Gowdy Addresses Critics". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  35. ^ Klapper, Bradley (17 September 2014). "House Select Committee on Benghazi consulate attack holding 1st open hearing today". MassLive LLC. Associated Press. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  36. ^ "SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 Benghazi Attack and Diplomatic Security". http://www.c-span.org/video/?321495-1/hearing-2012-benghazi-consulate-attacks. C-SPAN. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Section-by-Section Analysis".

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Haberman, Maggie (16 September 2014). "Pro-Clinton groups gear up for Benghazi hearings". Retrieved 18 September 2014.