Republicans who remain convinced that there was an Obama administration coverup surrounding the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, are pinning their hopes on one last congressional probe to produce proof of a scandal.
Others in the GOP, however, are urging that the party drop the Benghazi conspiracy theories and move on.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi will produce what Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday will be “the definitive report” on the attack that killed four Americans on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, and he reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) , a former federal prosecutor known for his patterned blazers and impressive oratorical skills, to lead the panel.
“Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night — and why,” Boehner said in a statement.
The heightened interest in the select committee comes in the wake of a House Intelligence Committee report, released last week, that rejected long-running conspiracy theories that the U.S. military was prevented from rescuing Americans targeted in the attack.
Gowdy’s committee will hold a public hearing next month — only its second since being established in May — with other hearings planned for next year, including several behind closed doors in order to review classified information, according to aides who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Democrats complain that the committee is a waste of both time and money, since it has developed no clear purpose or specific plan.
Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy — say that the Gowdy panel can produce significant results because it enjoys a broader mandate than the oversight committees that have produced reports so far. In those cases. the committees investigated specific actions by the CIA, Pentagon or State Department.
“I hope a joint committee looking at all three agencies together, rather than stove-piping, can get through this,” Graham said over the weekend on CNN. The South Carolina Republican was especially critical of the House Intelligence Committee report.
While the report did fault the CIA and other agencies for incorrectly assessing what caused the attacks and the White House for a “flawed” public response, it mostly debunked the assertions that the casualties were caused by delayed military response.
Graham called the intelligence panel’s report “absolute garbage.” Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said the report “puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community.”
“When the Department of Defense committees looked at [the attacks], the Department of Defense was held blameless. At the end of the day, everybody is pointing fingers to everybody else,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Rubio was not pleased with the House Intelligence report.
“Regardless of the report’s conclusions, many unanswered questions still remain, such as why no one at the State Department has been held accountable for the failure to heed the intelligence warnings of the deteriorating security situation in Libya, which is outrageous,” spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said in an e-mail.
Spokesmen for other potential GOP presidential candidates, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), didn’t respond to requests for comment.
At least some Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), believe it’s time for the GOP to drop the issue altogether.
“I’ve always thought the biggest problem with Benghazi is how it was cast by the administration and the remarks that Susan Rice just really threw in the face of what we knew was going on,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But with regard to the other things that were addressed by this report, well, yes, I thought for a long time that we ought to move beyond that.”
Gowdy said in a statement that the intelligence panel’s report will assist his “comprehensive investigation” that is designed to produce the “final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress.”
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), another former federal prosecutor and a member of the select committee, said that the intelligence panel’s work “is one of many tools” that will be used “to put together a cohesive and comprehensive picture of the attack on our consulate.”
“The American public deserves all of the facts regarding this tragic attack, and we are employing a deliberative and thorough process to find them,” Brooks said.
Democrats on the committee have complained that Boehner is devoting at least $3.3 million in taxpayer funding to bankroll a committee without any clear goals
“We don’t have a timetable yet, and we don’t have a scope of investigation yet,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Benghazi committee, said Monday in an interview. “It’s not because [Gowdy] is unwilling to work with us, it’s that we haven’t come to a conclusion about where it’s headed.”
Schiff defended the intelligence panel for working over two years on a report that was unanimously approved by all the members.
“The only real objection we’re hearing is that it contradicts a myth. And for some, no amount of factual documentation is going to change their Fox-driven conclusion,” he said, referring to the Fox News Channel, which has aggressively covered the attack, its aftermath and subsequent investigations.