mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Exposed Their Own Ignorance Of Basic Government”: Benghazi Hearing; While Republicans Barked And Snarled, Hillary Smiled

To watch Hillary Clinton’s Republican antagonists during Thursday’s public hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi was to wonder how they could possibly behave the way they did. As representatives of the American people, they not only failed miserably to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them, but exposed their own blithering ignorance of basic aspects of government.

Determined as they were to encourage doubt about Clinton’s presidential candidacy, they instead elevated her and raised hard questions about their own knowledge, character, temperament, and intellectual capacity to serve in Congress. After months of “investigating” Clinton, the Republican committee members have developed only a dim understanding of simple phenomena — like the many and varied sources of information, beyond emails, that are available to the Secretary of State. Only someone very dense, very poorly informed, or both, would believe, for instance, that she had received “most of her intelligence about Libya,” or any other subject, in unclassified email traffic.

Often the sheer mindlessness of their inquiries was stunning: Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asked Clinton whether she had been alone “all night” at home on Sept. 11, 2012, while the tragic events in Benghazi occurred. Rep. Mike Pompeo inquired whether the late Ambassador Chris Stevens had ever visited Clinton’s home or possessed her “fax number.” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) demanded that Clinton admit that as Secretary of State she had overseen American policy toward Libya. Several of the Republicans interrupted her rudely, upbraided her for looking at notes, even while they read from their own notes, and demanded that she give “Yes or No” answers to their queries, as if they were prosecutors grilling a perp.

The lines of inquiry that the Republicans pursued were muddled, directionless, and confusing, seemingly even to them. As the Democrats repeatedly pointed out, after all the tumult over Clinton’s emails, the proceedings of this committee so far — following several legislative and administrative investigations — revealed nothing new about the terrorist attack on the US compound in Benghazi, its prelude, or its aftermath.

So what might American taxpayers have gleaned from those 11 hours of hearings, the culmination of an expenditure of 17 months and $4.8 million? They learned that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chair, is obsessed with someone named Sidney Blumenthal, a friend of Clinton who sent her emails about Libya and other topics. He’s not just weirdly preoccupied, as anyone could see, but truly obsessed to the point of choking rage.

Those who have followed Gowdy’s conduct during the months leading up to this moment will find this Blumenthal business all too familiar. Having discovered that Blumenthal sent some emails to Clinton about Libya, largely incorporating information he had gathered from retired intelligence personnel, the chairman and his colleagues sought to fabricate a conspiracy theory of the Benghazi attack that somehow involved him.

Actually, “conspiracy theory” is too coherent a description of their aimless maundering on the topic of Sidney (who also happens to be my friend).

Gowdy appeared to believe – or perhaps pretended to believe – that if only the Secretary of State had ignored Blumenthal’s emails, the Benghazi attack might somehow have been prevented. According to this theory, she was paying too much attention to him, and not enough to Stevens.

In fact, as Clinton patiently attempted to explain over and over, she naturally delegated decisions about the safety of the Benghazi compound and personnel — and all perilous diplomatic posts — to the State Department’s security staff. Moreover, her communications with Blumenthal were, and are, entirely irrelevant to the matters that Gowdy purports to be investigating. Should Gowdy ever really wish to know why it is difficult to protect our embassies, consulates, and foreign service officers abroad, he might investigate himself and all the other Republicans who – as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) acknowledged on Thursday – voted repeatedly to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department’s security budget.

As I noted in Politico months ago, back when Gowdy first embarked on the Blumenthal trail, this isn’t the first time that the former Washington Post and New Yorker journalist has driven Republican politicians to manic distraction. Like Clinton herself, he is a demonized figure in certain circles – but every time they go after him, they risk humiliation or worse.

Among the many low points of the Clinton hearing was the moment when Gowdy first refused a committee vote on releasing Blumenthal’s deposition before the committee, and then whipped a party-line vote to keep it under seal. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member who led his fellow Democrats in eloquently protesting the committee’s many abuses, asked Gowdy what he is hiding.

But of course Cummings already knows the answer: In that closed deposition last June, Gowdy and company asked Blumenthal dozens of questions about wholly irrelevant but highly political matters, such as his employment by the Clinton Foundation, Media Matters, and Correct the Record – even though Gowdy has publicly claimed that he had no interest in those subjects. To release Blumenthal’s testimony would risk exposing the committee chairman’s bad faith and clumsy deceptions.

By the time Rep. Trey Gowdy finally gaveled the hearing to a close, there was little doubt that Hillary Clinton’s composed, dignified demeanor – and the contrast between her and the Republicans — had notched another political victory for her. She had movingly recounted the events of that awful night in Benghazi, explained her actions in detail, firmly defended the honor of Accountability Review Board chairs Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, and pleaded for a return to statesmanship. Her strong performance rallied skeptical liberals to her side, while furious conservatives whined in despair.

And when it was over she rose from the witness chair, smiling and greeting friends, while Gowdy stalked out, stone-faced and perspiring, as if he had seen his own demise.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, October 23, 2015

 

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

“This Hearing Was A Dreadful Mistake”: GOP’s Benghazi Committee Comes Unglued

It’s easy to forget that when the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee initially sought testimony from Hillary Clinton, GOP officials wanted her to provide private, closed-door testimony. The former Secretary of State was eager to answer questions publicly, for all the world to see, but Republicans desperately wanted the discussion to be kept far from public view.

And after watching this farce unfold today, we now know why.

It’s hard to say exactly when today’s hearing descended into total farce, but it was arguably when Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), for reasons that didn’t appear to make any sense, quizzed Clinton repeatedly on her correspondence with informal adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The New Republic’s Brian Beutler highlighted the problem.

Republicans have intoned darkly about this relationship and played up, in deceptive fashion, Blumenthal’s influence over Clinton’s policy in Libya – despite the fact that he has no Libya expertise, and has apparently never been there. Republicans even deposed him for hours. But here’s the catch: while they continue to make an issue of Blumenthal’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, and their email correspondence, they’ve refused to release the transcript of that deposition, where he had a full opportunity to contextualize it.

Today, after Gowdy pressed Clinton on this – reinforcing every suspicion about the entire exercise being brazenly partisan and political – Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) couldn’t take it anymore. The Maryland Democrat insisted that if Republicans are going to reference Blumenthal’s role, then the committee has a responsibility to release the full transcript of Blumenthal’s testimony to the public.

Gowdy refused and a shouting match ensued. The far-right chairman, however, simply couldn’t defend his position or explain why GOP lawmakers insisted on keeping relevant information hidden from view.

It was arguably a low point in the hearing, but it had plenty of competition in the category.

It’s practically impossible to go through the several hours’ worth of exchanges we’ve seen so far, but I sincerely hope that it’s dawned on Republicans that this hearing was a dreadful mistake.

Whether GOP lawmakers realize it or not, they created a platform for the leading Democratic presidential candidate to speak before the nation and appear knowledgeable, articulate, compassionate, and competent. Simultaneously, the committee’s Republicans, who spent months preparing for today’s epic showdown, were hopelessly clueless and small.

Which strategic genius in Republican Party thought it’d be a good idea to pit Hillary Clinton against obscure, unprepared, far-right members of Congress? Why on earth would the GOP go out of its way to make the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination look like the adult in the room?

Clinton has often been blessed by incompetent opponents, but this is ridiculous.

What’s more, it’s too common. In early August, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and despite having months to prepare their best arguments and sharpest questions, they had nothing. Slate’s William Saletan attended all three hearings and came away flabbergasted: “Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world…. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.”

A month later, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on Planned Parenthood, and once again, they had months to prepare, organize their thoughts, coordinate their lines of attack, read their own charts, etc. And yet, they again seemed hopelessly lost.

As we discussed in September, conservative partisans should see congressional Republicans as poor allies, in large part because they don’t seem to do their homework especially well. They create opportunities to advance their interests, but then let those opportunities pass as a result of negligence and incompetence.

Disclosure: My wife works for a Planned Parenthood affiliate, but she played no role in this report and her work is unrelated to the September congressional hearing.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Benghazi Committee Chair Finds Himself In The Hot Seat (Again)”: The Stop Hillary PAC And Gowdy Appear To Be Close Allies

The Republicans’ Benghazi Committee has unraveled to an extraordinary degree in recent weeks, as the entire effort is reduced to a taxpayer-financed election scheme. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the beleaguered chairman of the controversial panel, told Politico the other day, “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life.”

At least the controversies surrounding the committee couldn’t get much worse, right? Wrong.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank today flagged an overlooked angle that deserves to be added to the broader indictment against the Benghazi witch hunt.

As that mess was being cleaned up, Gowdy was dealing with another, courtesy of my Washington Post colleague Mike DeBonis. Gowdy has spoken piously about keeping his investigation above politics and about refusing to raise money from it. But DeBonis reported that Gowdy’s campaign had returned three donations after the Post inquired about the money’s ties to a political action committee that ran an incendiary ad during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. Three $2,000 contributions had been made to Gowdy by groups affiliated with the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC. Stop Hillary PAC had spent $10,000 on robocalls last month to boost Gowdy in his district, and its treasurer had been involved with Gowdy’s former leadership PAC. […]

Could such a skilled prosecutor and his experienced staff really be so hapless? Or are the mistakes more purposeful?

The Stop Hillary PAC, which exists to “ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States,” made headlines last week for running a rather disgusting attack ad during last week’s debate, prominently featuring Ambassador Chris Stevens’ grave, against his family’s wishes.

The Post reported, however, on the alliance between Gowdy’s political operation and the political action committee: the congressman’s leadership PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC shared a top official, an anti-Clinton operative named Dan Backer; the Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on robocalls a month ago in support of Gowdy; and Gowdy received campaign contributions groups the Stop Hillary PAC’s treasurer helped run.

Gowdy, realizing that this doesn’t look good, quickly returned the contributions, but the damage – or more accurately, the additional damage – was already done.

TPM ran a related item yesterday, showing an image of its email inbox “when you search the StopHillaryPac email and Gowdy’s name.” The takeaway isn’t subtle: the Stop Hillary PAC and Gowdy appear to be close allies.

It’s against this backdrop that the Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday, asking the RNC pick up the tab for the party’s Benghazi Committee, since it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for “a political inquisition.”

The top four Senate Dems added, “Due to the political nature of the committee, we believe it is inappropriate that a reported 4.7 million taxpayer dollars were used to finance its operations and that the RNC subsequently orchestrated numerous fundraising opportunities in its wake.”

The RNC responded fairly quickly, declining the Democratic request.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Asked And Answered A Thousand Times”: This Week Marks The End Of The Benghazi ‘Scandal’

Hillary Clinton will be testifying before the Select Committee on Benghazi on Thursday, and by the time she walks out of that hearing room, chances are that all the Republicans’ hopes of using this issue to bring Clinton down will be officially gone.

The timing of Clinton’s testimony couldn’t have worked out better for her, coming as it is after a string of revelations and embarrassments for the committee. First, then-presumptive Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News that the committee’s purpose was to bring down Clinton’s poll numbers, a “gaffe” that had an extraordinary impact, especially when you consider that he was only acknowledging what everyone in Washington already knew. Then we learned that the Select Committee has all but abandoned investigating Benghazi to focus on Clinton’s emails (and that committee staffers are so busy they’ve formed a wine club and a gun-buying club).

Then we learned that a former staffer for the committee is suing them, alleging that he was fired because he wanted to keep investigating Benghazi and not Clinton. Over the weekend, we learned that Democrats are questioning committee chair Trey Gowdy’s accusation that Clinton recklessly used the name of a secret CIA source in an email. According to Democrats, the CIA says the information isn’t sensitive. “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life,” Gowdy told Politico. No wonder.

And what’s going to happen on Thursday? Understand that most of the time, congressional testimony makes the witness look much better than the questioners. There are exceptions here and there, but a well-prepared witness who knows the facts will usually look almost heroic when posed against a bunch of grandstanding blowhards trying in vain to trip her up. The Republicans on the committee will be trying so, so hard, but their main problem is that they just don’t have the thing they hoped they would find: evidence that Clinton committed some act of malfeasance or corruption that led to the deaths of four Americans on that night in Benghazi three years ago.

Which is why, when they originally began negotiating over this testimony, Gowdy wanted it to be in private. If it was, then committee members could do what they’ve been doing all along: selectively leak out-of-context snippets of her testimony to the press in an attempt to make her look bad, while keeping the full context secret. Clinton insisted on testifying publicly, and so she will.

The discussion about this committee has changed profoundly in the last couple of weeks, and not because the committee itself suddenly changed what it was doing. Don’t forget that there have been seven separate investigations into Benghazi, most of them run by Republicans, and all have failed to deliver the shocking revelation that would destroy Clinton’s presidential hopes. From the beginning, Democrats belittled the Select Committee as one more desperate attempt to do what the other investigations couldn’t, while the Democrats on the committee itself, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, regularly criticized how the committee was doing its work, including the selective and misleading press leaks and the focus on Clinton. Today those committee Democrats released a new report documenting yet again the committee’s failure to substantiate any of the spectacular claims Republicans have made about the administration’s alleged misdeeds and Clinton’s in particular, from the imaginary “stand-down order” to the fictional cover-up.

So what changed? McCarthy’s comments gave people in the media permission to talk about the committee in a different and more realistic way, one that accorded with what they already understood to be true. Before, the story was framed by Republican allegations about Clinton, but now the committee itself has become the issue. The operative question is no longer, “What is Hillary Clinton guilty of?”, because that has been asked and answered a thousand times. Whether you think she ought to be president or not, there’s simply no evidence that she committed any misdeeds before or after the Benghazi attack. The question is now, “What the heck is going on with this committee?”

It’s possible that Clinton could perform terribly in her testimony on Thursday, just as it’s possible that the committee will discover some shocking new information that none of the prior investigations managed to find. But it’s more likely that the committee’s Republicans will seem more angry about their inability to catch her in a crime than about whatever awful thing she was supposed to have done, while she succeeds in making the whole investigation look like a farce.

Her testimony will be the big story in the news on Friday. Then it will be the subject of a hundred think pieces over the weekend. By next week, the only real question Republicans will be asking themselves is, how did we screw this up so badly?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Intentional Deception”: Latest Gowdy Fakery; Name Of CIA Source In Clinton Email Was No Secret

For anyone disappointed by the absence of troubling material from Hillary Clinton’s emails – not to mention the cratering of the House Select Committee on Benghazi — Michael Isikoff provided a moment of hope last Monday on Morning Joe. According to the Yahoo News investigative correspondent, one of the emails newly released by the Benghazi committee was “evidence of the commission of a federal crime by someone, not Hillary Clinton,” because it included the name of a CIA source in Libya.

Even more thrilling, to some people at least, was the identity of the supposedly incriminating message’s author: none other than Clinton’s often-demonized friend Sidney Blumenthal (who also happens to be a friend of mine).

“This is maybe the single most problematic email exchange we’ve seen with Hillary Clinton yet of all the emails that have been raised,” explained Isikoff. “What you have there is Blumenthal telling the secretary that somebody at the CIA gave the name of a sensitive human intelligence source to somebody who wasn’t at the CIA.”

Certainly this appeared to be a damaging story, if accurate – but its origin in Rep. Trey Gowdy’s discredited outfit should have raised immediate suspicion. Had any of the journalists covering Gowdy checked carefully, we might have learned earlier what we now know: The CIA had reviewed that same email at the behest of the State Department before it was released and “made no redactions to protect classified information.”

In other words, Blumenthal’s email naming a certain Libyan political figure – the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa — did not disclose any classified information, let alone intelligence secrets.

So why did Isikoff – and other credulous journalists – consider that March 18, 2011 email so damaging to Clinton and Blumenthal? Evidently because Gowdy or his staff had redacted the name of the former Libyan official themselves — while adding the usual CIA phrase “redacted due to sources and methods” for dramatic emphasis. As released, the document seemed to show that the agency had blacked out the man’s name to protect a source. That was an intentional deception, reminiscent of the dirty trick that got David Bossie fired from the staff of the House Oversight Committee.

On Sunday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Benghazi committee’s ranking Democrat, sent a stinging letter to Gowdy, which noted that the Republican chairman had accused Clinton of receiving “classified information from Blumenthal—information she should have known was classified at the time she received it,” and that Clinton had then “forwarded that information to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.”

Wrote Cummings: “To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, ‘redacted due to sources and methods.’  To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines… Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified.”

So here is yet another absurd episode, humiliating both for Gowdy and the journalists who promoted this fraudulent story and highly reminiscent of the bogus “criminal referral” leak that made the front page of the New York Times last summer.

This latest episode is even more clownish than it seems at first glance, however. Far from being secret, the close connection between Moussa Koussa and US intelligence was detailed, at great length, more than eight years ago in former CIA director George Tenet’s memoir, At the Center of the Storm (HarperCollins 2007), which was reviewed by CIA censors before publication, of course.

Koussa’s CIA ties came up again in March 2011 during Libya’s bloody civil war, reported in an excellent story on NBC News’ website by senior investigative producer Robert Windrem, just weeks before Koussa defected to the West. (It is worth noting that Windrem’s story appeared while Isikoff still worked at NBC News.) And on March 17, 2011, one day before Blumenthal sent the Koussa email to Clinton, the New York Times published a story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane reporting on the Libyan intelligence chief’s post-9/11 cooperation with the CIA.

Nevertheless, in Gowdy’s effort to stir fake outrage over the Blumenthal email, he described the Koussa disclosure in apocalyptic terms: “This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.”

But when his committee released the full email to the press, Gowdy’s own staffers failed to redact Koussa’s name from the subject line – so it was Gowdy, not Blumenthal or Clinton, who released that “most protected information” to the press and public.

By the way, there is one more angle on Moussa Koussa that sheds a darkly comical light on Gowdy’s deep concern for his security. As Tenet explained in his book, the former Libyan intelligence chief is believed by Western intelligence services to have ordered the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew. So Koussa was probably a murderous terrorist, too.

But at least he isn’t Hillary Clinton or one of her friends.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | CIA, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: