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“Failing To Deliver The Goods”: With Clinton Exonerated, Conspiracy Theorists Turn On Trey Gowdy

With the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee uncovering no meaningful new information, and with the panel’s investigation effectively exonerating Hillary Clinton, right-wing conspiracy theorists this week had no choice but to give up and find a new hobby.

No, I’m just kidding. They’re actually redirecting their ire towards Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Just yesterday, I predicted that some conservatives would turn on Gowdy, in whom they’d invested so much hope. The far-right South Carolinian was supposed to bury, not exonerate, Hillary Clinton, I wrote, and his inability to deliver a useful campaign weapon will likely be seen as both a failure and a betrayal.

A few hours later, far-right radio personality Michael Savage told his audience, “Trey Gowdy should be impeached for wasting my time! He promised us a lot! Remember?” (Members of Congress can be expelled, but not impeached, under the U.S. Constitution.)

Of course, Savage isn’t alone. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained today that “conspiracy-minded” conservatives are blaming Gowdy “for failing to deliver the goods.” There was a meeting yesterday of the “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi,” where members agreed the far-right South Carolinian let them down by failing to confirm their beliefs.

A woman in the crowd floated a new Benghazi conspiracy. “Has someone in the GOP leadership gotten their fingers involved in watering down some of this to benefit Secretary Clinton?” she asked. Nobody rebutted this idea.

Herein lies a lesson for Republicans who are perpetually trying to appease the far right: It’s a fool’s errand. They went to the tea party – and now they’re taking Donald Trump to the prom. Likewise, then-House Speaker John Boehner named the Benghazi committee because activists were dissatisfied that seven previous congressional investigations had failed to uncover major scandal material. Now an eighth has produced more of the same – and the agitators are as agitated as ever.

There’s a certain twisted logic to this. The unhinged right starts with the ideologically satisfying answer – President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty of horrible Benghazi-related wrongdoing – and then works backwards, looking for “proof” that matches the conclusion. When their ostensible allies fail to tell these activists what they want to hear, they could reevaluate their bogus assumptions, but it’s vastly easier to believe Republicans have let them down.

Wait, it gets worse.

As Milbank reported, a former Ted Cruz adviser complained yesterday that Gowdy “did not draw a connection between the dots.” And why not? According to retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, the Benghazi Committee chairman “had his reasons – political” for holding back.

McInerney “speculated that congressional leadership had approved ‘black operations’ to run weapons from Benghazi to Islamic State forces in Syria.”

This is what it’s come to: Benghazi conspiracy theorists are so creative, and so unmoved by evidence or reason, that they can convince themselves that congressional Republicans are in on the conspiracy.

As Donald Trump and his allies try to incorporate ridiculous Benghazi rhetoric into their 2016 platform, keep in mind who his unhinged allies are.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An ‘In-Kind Contribution’ To The RNC”: The Benghazi Committee’s Final Report Proves Nothing But Its Own Real Purpose

The GOP-lead Benghazi Committee released their final report on Tuesday morning, claiming that with 81 new witnesses and 75,000 new pages of documents, it “Fundamentally Changes the Public’s Understanding of the 2012 Terrorist Attacks that Killed Four Americans.”

Well… not really. The report offers no game-changing information — there are no “bombshells.” Instead, “new details” attempt to paint the Obama administration as a failing bureaucratic machine that allowed the attack to happen despite knowing about possible threats. By being vague on the details, the committee is letting Republican voters fill in the blanks.

Some of the “new details” include:

What officials discussed at a two-hour White House meeting after the attack. (White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that a House Intelligence committee investigation has already “debunked” allegations that the military was too slow to act, and that the report is so obviously a partisan effort that it should be disclosed as an “in-kind contribution” to the RNC.)

The fact that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wasn’t at the meeting, even though he usually would be, “because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries.” (According to the Democratic report on Benghazi, there was nothing the Pentagon could have done differently that night to prevent the attack.)

A Fleet Antiterrorism Security operatives in Spain changing in and out of their uniforms four times because officials weren’t sure about the right protocol for introducing U.S. forces. (State Department spokesman Mark Toner said “Concerns about what they wore had no bearing on the timing of their arrival.”)

What the new details do not include is any evidence at all that Hillary Clinton, or the State Department, could have done anything differently to prevent the deaths of four Americans. Instead, it suggests that Clinton and other officials did not properly address possible threats in intelligence reports, and finds that Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the four victims, was responsible for securing his post.

In this latest episode of the Benghazi Committee show, Republicans also failed to justify the committee’s own existence as anything other than a source of anti-Democrat propaganda. GOP congresspeople have urged voters to “read the report and make their own conclusions,” knowing full well that likely no one will read the inscrutable 800-page report. By leaving this opening, they leave an empty space for GOP conspiracists to fill.

In a news conference, Gowdy tried to appear somber and unbiased, denying that the partisan investigation had political motives, and refusing to blame Clinton.

The other members of the committee were left to do that. “This was something Hillary Clinton pushed for and got done,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio of the U.S. presence in Libya. He, along with Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, did not think 800 pages were enough, so they released yet another analysis of the attack, called “additional views” where they go after Clinton and Obama more directly, blaming the attack on “a tragic failure of leadership.”

The committee has been using the Benghazi tragedy for two years as a vehicle to attack Clinton and the Obama administration. All seven Republican committee members released statements and took turns speaking at the press conference, expressing outrage at the four lives lost in the attack, before relating it to Clinton’s morality and judgement.

These same representatives have pulled dirty tricks like leaking sworn depositions to conservative media, sending federal marshals to serve  subpoenas to witnesses who weren’t involved with the events on September 11, and perhaps most notoriously, questioning Clinton for 11 straight hours last October without any material findings to show for it.

You would think the Committee would hang up the cleats after that hearing. If only. The Benghazi committee’s investigation is estimated to have cost $7 million over two years.

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Long Past Time For The Farce To End”: GOP Committee’s Lawyer Undercuts Benghazi Conspiracy Theory

Things have not been going well for the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP’s partisan witch hunt.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans’ increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel’s requests have become “unnecessary” and “unproductive.” Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of “encouraging speculation” from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.

Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:

Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could’ve done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn’t for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don’t care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.

Now, however, there’s evidence that Gowdy’s former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee’s lawyer considers bogus.

According to the letter, that staffer, former Gen. Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Chipman was similarly deferential to Bash. “I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” said Chipman, who himself served 33 years in the Army.

And if the military did everything it could that night, the conspiracy theory is no more. The Benghazi committee is asking questions that have been answered to the satisfaction of the committee’s top lawyer, chosen by the committee’s Republican chairman.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Republicans have already admitted the Benghazi panel is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence – at a cost of nearly $7 million. Now there’s evidence the committee is not just annoying the Department of Defense for reasons no one seems able to defend, the panel’s former top lawyer has also seen the evidence and rejected the investigation’s basic premise.

To reiterate a recent observation, though I find the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I’m not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true – Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.

But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. This was already one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn’t quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, “Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn’t.”

But even now, Republicans can’t substantiate the various conspiracy theories, which their own lawyer has dismissed.

It’s long past time for the farce to end.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Benghazi Hearing Was A Self-Defeating Travesty”: Hillary Clinton Failed To Make A Case Against Herself

Hillary Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. She sat in the witness chair with the patience of Job, hour after endless hour, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi did all it could to make her our next president.

How much of a self-defeating travesty was last week’s hearing for the Republican Party? The answer is obvious from how quickly the GOP has sought to turn the page.

Had a glove been laid on the presumptive Democratic nominee, the Sunday talk shows would have been a jamboree of Clinton-bashing. As it was, chief inquisitor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) could only grumble on “Meet the Press” that Clinton’s testimony lacked “wholeness and completeness,” by which he seemed to mean she failed to make a case against herself. Gowdy also said he regretted that the hearing was held publicly rather than behind closed doors.

Among the Republican presidential contenders, the most deliciously ironic reaction came from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking State Department professionals. As “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out, Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Front-runner Donald Trump more wisely chose a pox-on-both-houses approach, observing in a CNN interview that the hearing was “very partisan” and “the level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable.” He used the occasion to paint himself as a “great unifier,” which will come as a surprise to the beleaguered GOP establishment.

Gowdy was chosen to head the Benghazi committee because of his experience as a prosecutor. Maybe he’s better at real trials than show trials. Presiding over Thursday’s marathon farce, he was a disaster.

His biggest mistake was failing to foresee the dynamics of the hearing: It was always likely that Clinton, not the committee, would dominate the room.

After all, this was hardly Clinton’s first rodeo. With all her experience at congressional hearings, both asking and answering questions, she knew it was the witness who had ultimate control over pace and tone. However aggressive the Republicans were in firing their questions, she answered calmly, slowly, almost sweetly. She was like a tennis player who just keeps lobbing the ball back across the net until her opponent becomes frustrated and makes a mistake.

Gowdy appeared to orchestrate the hearing so that his one tidbit of new information was revealed late in the day, when Clinton might be tired and more likely to stumble: a previously unreported e-mail to her daughter, Chelsea, blaming the Benghazi attacks on terrorists at a time when other administration officials were saying they began as spontaneous demonstrations.

But the committee member assigned to confront Clinton with the e-mail was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and it was he, not the witness, who seemed cranky and out of sorts. Perhaps the pressure of heading the Freedom Caucus of rejectionist House Republicans is getting to him.

Clinton explained that she wrote the e-mail in question after the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed credit for the attacks — but before that same group denied responsibility. Jordan ignored Clinton’s response and went on sputtering about an allegedly “false narrative.”

Clinton had already won the narrative contest, however. Hours earlier, she told the riveting story of how, as a Benghazi diplomatic compound burned, State Department security personnel desperately searched through thick black smoke for diplomat Sean Smith and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They found Smith’s body but did not know for many hours that Libyans had taken Stevens to a hospital and tried, but failed, to revive him.

Gowdy’s committee couldn’t decide exactly what Clinton was supposed to have done wrong. At times, the Republican members suggested she was too detached; at other times, they accused her of micromanagement. The fact that a friend and former aide named Sidney Blumenthal sent Clinton a number of self-important e-mails is somehow unforgiveable, I gather, although committee members were at pains to explain why.

In a hearing that began at 10 a.m. and ended 11 hours later, hardly any time was spent on the one legitimate issue arising from Benghazi: the wisdom of U.S. policy in Libya. U.S. military support helped oust a brutal dictator. But we also helped create a failed state where terrorism quickly took root.

Does Clinton have any second thoughts? Maybe a serious committee will ask her someday.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Fundamental Attribution Error”: What Hillary’s Benghazi Hearing Revealed About Life Inside The Republican Bubble

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing who Sidney Blumenthal is. If you don’t, and you tuned in midway through Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, you might have concluded that Blumenthal is either a high-ranking al Qaeda leader, a Soviet spy, or some combination of Bernie Madoff and Ted Bundy. In any case, you might have concluded that he’s a world-historical figure whose actions must be understood if America is to move forward into the future.

The ridiculously lengthy discussion about Blumenthal illustrates the problem Republicans have had with this entire investigation: They’re stuck in their own bubble, unable to see what things might look like from outside it.

In case you don’t know, Sid Blumenthal is a former journalist and longtime friend (and sometime employee) of the Clintons. For a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others, Republicans regard him as a singularly sinister character. When it emerged that he had sent Hillary Clinton lots of emails about Libya (and other matters), they could barely contain their glee, going so far as to subpoena him to testify privately. He apparently failed to give them what they wanted, because up until now committee Chair Trey Gowdy has refused to release his testimony to the public. This is a replay of what happened in 1998 during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr forced Blumenthal to testify about what he knew in that case (if you want a lengthy explanation of Blumenthal and his relationship to the Clintons, go here).

The point is that, from within the Republican bubble, Blumenthal’s connection to Benghazi, even if it consisted only of sending Hillary Clinton emails about Libya in general, proves that something fishy was going on. So naturally they’ll waste an hour or two of her testimony talking about the fact that he sent her lots of emails, which proves that…he sent her lots of emails.

This is what happens when you start an investigation that you’re sure will uncover evidence of nefarious goings-on. When you can’t find any malfeasance, you convince yourself that even mundane things are nefarious, like the fact that Hillary Clinton has a friend you don’t like.

Consider another topic of discussion at the hearing: the different stories that came out in the immediate aftermath of the attack explaining why the attack had occurred. The situation was chaotic, in large part because there were nearly simultaneous incidents at other American diplomatic outposts in the Middle East, growing out of protests of an anti-Muslim video that appeared online. At first, the administration said the Benghazi attack was like those in Cairo and Tunis, but it later became clear that it was more organized and planned (though the perpetrators may have opportunistically launched the attack precisely because so many protests were going on in so many places).

How should we understand the administration’s changing explanation? Was it mere spin? A reflection of the information that was available? Or was it scandalous? Throughout, Republicans have treated the Obama administration’s response as though it were not just scandalous, but possibly criminal. For instance, in May of last year, we learned of a memo that a White House communication official wrote at the time, encouraging staffers not to say Benghazi represented a failure of administration policy. In other words, a guy whose job it is to craft spin crafted some spin. But Republicans reacted as though they had caught Barack Obama personally killing those four Americans. “We now have the smoking gun,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “It’s the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes,” said Charles Krauthammer.

A similarly enlightening discussion was brought up in Clinton’s hearing, with Republicans expressing such faux-outrage you’d think they were talking about one of the most diabolical propaganda campaigns in human history, and not a few comments that a few administration officials made to a few television shows. At another point in the hearing, a Republican congressman spent nearly 15 minutes aggressively interrogating Clinton over whether — brace yourself — her press secretary tried to make her look good to reporters. Only a truly diabolical figure could contemplate such a thing.

We’re all tempted to assume the worst about our political opponents. They can’t be just people we disagree with or even people whose values are different from ours. If we’re partisan enough, we end up thinking that everything our opponents do is for the worst motives. Those people on the other side don’t even make mistakes; when they screw up, it just shows how venomous their very hearts are. It’s the political version of what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error,” in which we attribute our own actions to circumstance, but we attribute other people’s actions to their inherent nature. If I cut you off in traffic, it’s because I didn’t realize you were in my blind spot; if you cut me off, it’s because you’re a jerk.

And if Americans died at Benghazi, well it just had to be an outgrowth of Hillary Clinton’s infinite capacity for evil. She got emails from a guy we don’t like? Proof of just how wicked the whole thing was! Somebody in the administration described the events in a way that turned out to be inaccurate? Yet more proof!

Many conservatives watching the hearing no doubt concluded that it reinforced everything they think about Clinton: that she’s dishonest and untrustworthy, that she’s surrounded by unsavory characters, and that she is utterly at fault for the deaths of those four Americans in Benghazi. They also probably thought the Republicans on the committee were heroic in their efforts to pin her down.

But it’s hard to imagine lots of Americans who would agree, unless they are already committed Republicans. It wouldn’t be the first time Republicans thought they were doing great, while the rest of America saw the situation a little differently.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 23, 2015

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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