Rep. Trey Gowdy and fellow Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi said that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department acted in a “shameful” manner in failing to turn over emails from her private email server, making it “impossible” to know whether everything about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that left four Americans dead will ever be known.
Over the past several days, Republicans orchestrated the secretive roll out of their partisan report to minimize fact-checking and maximize breathless headlines based on long-debunked conspiracy theories. They leaked pieces of it to select reporters, baiting them with so-called ‘exclusives,’ but imposing conditions that are highly irresponsible for independent journalists to accept. For example, Republicans forbade reporters from checking the accuracy of their report with Democrats, and they withheld interview transcripts that contradicted their partisan narratives. Once we finally read the report, we will be able to check it against the evidence we obtained, but so far, it looks like a conspiracy theory on steroids.
Democrats on the committee chose not to participate in the investigation and did everything they could to undermine and obstruct it. Their extreme dishonesty and sabotage is unbecoming of the offices they hold. The truth is that reporters were free to check with the minority about the committee’s report before its public release, since the embargo was lifted before then. That is more than the minority did when it released its so-called ‘report’ to the media and the Majority at the same time, making their complaints hypocritical. Of course, the word ‘Clinton’ appears far more in the Democrats’ report than the Republicans’, and unlike the Democrats, our report doesn’t mention Donald Trump at all.
The State Department has been more measured in its response, but also pointedly denies accusations of foot-dragging in a statement Tuesday.“The Department cooperated extensively with the Benghazi Committee,” department spokesman Mark Toner said. “The Committee received documents, briefings, and/or witness interviews from us every single month between August 2014 and June 2016. The Department provided every single witness the Committee asked for—over 50 current and former employees appeared for interviews, often requiring them to travel from abroad. We made over 50 document productions, totaling over 100,000 pages of documents. We provided eight briefings to members (of Congress) and staff, and Department witnesses appeared at all four of the Committee’s hearings.”
It appears that a number of outlets – some that have acted as little more than clearinghouses for Gowdy’s office all along, others that seemed to have succumbed to competitive pressures on just this particular occasion – regretfully signed onto the Republicans’ manipulative terms for receiving leaked excerpts of their partisan report. The middle-of-the-night distribution of these selective excerpts by the Republican staff – without allowing the Democratic members of their own committee to see the material – is just one more example of the partisan nature of this Committee’s work. The ploy was clearly designed to manipulate coverage by minimizing the time for scrutiny of the allegations contained in the report. The ploy worked initially, in that many of these outlets that struck this deal got tricked into misreporting several old bits of information as “new” revelations. Much of that misreporting is now being corrected, but it is unfortunate that any news organizations would let themselves be manipulated in this way for the Benghazi Committee’s own partisan ends. Being first to report the partial details of a discredited document doesn’t seem worth it.