The writer, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the House, where he is the ranking member on the Select Committee on Benghazi.
Now that the State Department has released former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s e-mails relating to the attacks in Benghazi, the American people can see for themselves that there is not a scrap of evidence to back up claims that Clinton issued a “stand-down” order or any of the other baseless allegations that Republicans have been making about her for years.
This is exactly what Reps. Adam Smith (Wash.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Linda Sanchez (Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and I — the Democratic members of the Select Committee on Benghazi — have been saying since we obtained Clinton’s e-mails in February. And it’s why all five of us believe the time has come to voice the grave concerns we share over the extremely partisan and misguided direction this committee has taken.
For those keeping track, the committee has spent more than a year and more than $3 million trying to find evidence to damage Clinton and her presidential campaign, even as it continues to come up empty-handed.
Already, the committee has lasted longer than the investigations of the Iran-Contra affair, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the attack on Pearl Harbor and Hurricane Katrina.
Yet the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), may not release his findings until just months before next year’s presidential election, according to news reports.
At this glacial pace, the Benghazi investigation will last longer than the Watergate investigation and the 9/11 Commission, and it will squander more than $6 million in taxpayer funds.
But that has not stopped Republicans from dragging out the committee’s work, offering new excuses at every turn, and — in an astonishing and disgraceful display — seeking to raise campaign funds off the deaths of four brave Americans.
Now, House Republicans want to withhold nearly $700 million from the State Department’s operational budget in an Orwellian attempt to improve the department’s document production processes.
That simply makes no sense. Withholding two-thirds of a billion dollars from the department’s budget — more than all of the salaries of all of the employees working on document production — would only grind the process to a halt.
The committee should stop blaming others for its own delays. It waited more than six months to send a request for new documents to the State Department and nearly a year to send new document requests to the Pentagon and the CIA. The committee has not held a single hearing in 19 weeks, despite the chairman’s assertion that there would be public hearings on a monthly basis. It refuses to set a date for Clinton’s testimony, although she has been willing to appear since last year.
Pushing this taxpayer-funded political attack further into election season sacrifices any chance that the American people will see it as serious or legitimate. As Greta Van Susteren of Fox News has warned, the committee’s findings “will forever be plagued by allegations of unfairness and politics.”
Recognizing this fact, Republicans are becoming more desperate to justify the committee’s existence, and they are resorting to strong-arm tactics straight out of the partisan playbook of discredited GOP investigations of the past.
For example, the committee majority recently issued a completely unnecessary subpoena without first contacting the witness. It clearly leaked this news before the subpoena was served and sent armed marshals to the witness’s home to confront his wife — all just to get a cheap headline.
These actions directly contradict the spirit of the chairman’s previous statement that compelling the testimony of cooperative witnesses such as Clinton “just seems a little heavy-handed,” as well as his claim that “serious investigations do not leak information.”
After nine reports on the Benghazi attacks from seven congressional committees and the independent Accountability Review Board, how many more times will Republicans investigate Clinton — and how much more will we be forced to spend — before they stop trying to prove that she engaged in some sort of conspiracy?
This slow-walked and abusive political charade on the taxpayers’ dime is exactly the opposite of what we promised the families of those killed in Benghazi.
If there is any minuscule chance left to salvage the Benghazi committee’s place in history, we need to return immediately to our core mission of implementing concrete reforms designed to help protect our diplomatic corps around the world.
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