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Boehner taps Rep. Trey Gowdy to lead Benghazi select committee

File: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

As widely expected, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday announced that Rep. Trey Gowdy will lead a newly-formed select committee to investigate the State Department's handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.

"Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come.  His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel," Boehner said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

"I know he shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration.  I plan to ensure he and his committee have the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts.  This is a big job, but Rep. Gowdy has the confidence of this conference, and I know his professionalism and grit will earn him the respect of the American people.”

The attack, which occurred not long before the 2012 presidential contest, was thrust back into the national spotlight last week after new documents about the State Department's handling of it were made public.

It remains unclear if Democrats will participate in the committee. Top House Democrats said that, as of Monday morning, they had not been contacted by Boehner's office about the size, structure, and scope of the committee. And, on Monday afternoon, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that he will urge Democratic House members to vote against the formation of the committee.

A House vote on the committee's creation is expected later this week, with some details about its structure and scope likely to be made public prior to the vote.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of orchestrating a cover-up of how they responded to the attack. Democrats have admitted that the administration made a mistake by initially blaming it solely on outrage over the "Innocence of Muslims" video, which included a derogatory depiction of prophet Muhammad and sparked protests throughout the Middle East.

The State Department recently released new e-mails about how its talking points were crafted -- ones that had not been provided to congressional Republicans who subpoenaed all Benghazi-related documents -- to a conservative watchdog group, sparking outrage on the right.

Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which has led multiple probes into the handling of the Benghazi attack, praised Gowdy's selection.

“Speaker Boehner could not have chosen a Member more committed to getting the full truth about the before, during, and after of the Benghazi terrorist attacks," Issa said in a statement. "Trey has been an integral contributor to the Oversight Committee investigation and takes the knowledge we have gained, through subpoenas and individual testimony, to his new role leading the new Select Committee.”

That praise was echoed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

"I can think of nobody better than Trey to spearhead this effort," Cantor said in a statement. "His prosecutorial background will be an enormous value as he and his fellow committee members seek out the facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya and how the administration responded to that terror attack. After years of obstruction, it’s time the American people finally get all the answers, and Trey will ensure that happens."

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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