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“Little To Show For The Significant Rabbit Hole Expenditure”: Benghazi Investigation Spends Fortune To Harass Hillary Clinton

The Benghazi Select Committee moves slowly but spends quickly, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee.

On June 16th, the Benghazi Select Committee, meeting behind closed doors, questioned Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal for nine hours about emails he sent to the then-Secretary of State containing privately gathered intelligence reports from inside Libya.

The release of new emails from Mr. Blumenthal marked a milestone for the committee, characterized committee chairman, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, as “noteworthy,” because no Congressional committee that “has previously looked into Benghazi or Libya has uncovered these memos.”

Yet there was no explanation as to how these emails contained any new insights or information about the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Mr. Blumenthal himself noted “my testimony has shed no light on the events of Benghazi—nor could it—because I have no firsthand knowledge.”

This has been a consistent theme of the House’s investigation—a frenzy of media fireworks, with little substantive progress made in pursuit of the committee’s actual mandate. (The majority staff of the Benghazi Select Committee did not respond to requests for comment).

Led by a an 18-member Republican staff, whose full time employees are paid an average of $128,750 per year, the Benghazi Select Committee has proceeded at a plodding pace. Thus far, it has held only three hearings and by the end of this week will have interviewed just 29 witnesses. In comparison the Congressional investigation into the Iran Contra scandal lasted 10.5 months, during which time investigators conducted 500 interviews along with 40 days of public hearings.

The lack of progress is especially striking considering seven Congressional committees and a State Department Accountability Review Board already conducted inquires into the attack. Most recently the findings of the Republican led House Intelligence Committee found no evidence for many of the accusations hurled at President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other government officials.

Over 13 months the Benghazi Select Committee has spent more than $3,500,000, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee. This figure does not include significant expenditures made by the State Department and Defense Department to find and declassify material requested by the committee or the expense of witness travel for those who work for the government.

While exact dollar amounts spent by federal agencies are unavailable, details released about other declassification processes shed light on these costs. In March 2014 the Defense Department informed Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, they had spent “millions of dollars” and “thousands of man-hours to responding to numerous and often repetitive Congressional requests regarding Benghazi.” Currently the State Department has 12 full-time staff members paid between $63,700 and $150,000 reviewing Hillary Clinton’s emails “a process that could cost more than $1 million” according to the National Journal. The total cost for these document queries could run well into the eight figures. For example, the IRS spent $14 million responding to Congressional investigations into accusations it politicized the tax-exemption application process.

The Benghazi Select Committee has little to show for the significant expenditure—aside from a trail of unfulfilled promises by its Chairman. “We will have hearings in January, February and March,” Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) announced in December.

That never happened.

The committee held a single hearing in January, focused on berating State Department legislative liaison Joel Rubin about the production of documents. CIA representative Neil Higgins escaped with a mild talking to.

Two days after his December announcement, Rep. Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren the committee would hold a hearing in January to explore why the State Department was in Benghazi. That hearing never occurred.

In February, Rep. Gowdy sent a letter to the committee’s ranking Democratic member Elijah Cummings (D-Md) informing him that “beginning as early as April I intend to start interviewing” a list of twenty prominent members of the Obama administration including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Clinton State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills among others.

According to a Democrat committee staff member, “The committee has yet to interview a single person on Gowdy’s list.”

In April, Gowdy again appeared on Van Susteren’s show claiming, “we’re doing four witness interviews a week, whereas we were doing two.”

A Democratic committee, who requested anonymity, aide told the Observer, “The Select Committee has never done four interviews a week.”

Rep. Gowdy now states the committee will continue its work into 2016 raising its cost to taxpayers to more than $6,000,000, casting his inaction as the result of the Obama administration’s slow pace at producing requested documents, a questionable premise. Rep. Gowdy began receiving documents in August. The committee did not make its first request to the State Department until mid-November, six months after beginning its work. His document request to the Department of Defense was only delivered in early April of this year.

Rep. Gowdy has proceeded in a similar vein while attempting to schedule Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the committee. In early September Stop Hillary PAC, which was “created for one reason only—to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States,” delivered a petition with 264,000 signatures demanding Gowdy call the Secretary of State to testify.

The next day, he asked Rep. Cummings to reach out to Ms. Clinton on his “behalf to determine whether she would testify.” On a November 12 phone call with majority and minority committee staff, Clinton’s team confirmed she would be willing to testify before the committee in December. Rep. Gowdy recently moved the goal posts, asking she appear for a private transcribed interview, as opposed to a public hearing.

Recently, the committee has shifted some of its focus from investigating the actual attack in Benghazi, to reviewing policy decisions made by Hillary Clinton regarding Libya more than nineteen months prior to the attack. Rep. Gowdy, confirmed this to Politico, which reported that “broader problems with the Obama administration’s Libya policy—could prove to be an ugly albatross weighing on the Clinton campaign.”

Rep. Cummings believes these efforts are part of “a fishing expedition for anything they can use against Secretary Clinton in her presidential campaign.” He continued, “After a full year, it now seems obvious that this investigation is being dragged out in order to attack Secretary Clinton and her campaign for president—squandering millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.”

In May of 2014 it was reported that Republicans worried that if they created a Benghazi Select Committee it would fail to produce tangible results. “Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives,” wrote Eli Lake. One House member told Lake, “This could be a rabbit hole.”

It has turned out to be an extremely deep one.

 

By: Ari Rabin-Havt, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 18, 2015; This piece originally appeared in The New York Observer

June 19, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Conspiracy So Vast, It Now Involves Republicans”: Republicans Turn On Each Other Over Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

Once the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee issued its report on the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, there was a sense of finality to the process. GOP lawmakers on the panel themselves described the findings as “definitive.”

Every possible question has been answered. Every conspiracy theory has been discredited. Every wild-eyed allegation has been proven false. Every House committee, every Senate committee, every State Department investigator, and every inquiry launched by independent news organizations have reached the exact same conclusion. There’s a general feeling, even among many Republicans, that it’s time to just move on.

But that’s not going to happen. Not only is the House on track to spend at last another $1.5 million – of our money – on yet another committee, but many GOP lawmakers have decided to reject the findings of other GOP lawmakers.

Some of the loudest torch-and-pitchfork wielding Benghazi investigation enthusiasts weren’t satisfied. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN he thought the report “is full of crap” and that the House Intelligence Committee had done a “lousy job of policing their own.”

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points,” Graham said. “And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) agreed, telling the Salt Lake Tribune that Graham “is probably right.”

He’s really not.

And while it’s certainly interesting to see Graham and Chaffetz reject the exhaustive findings prepared by their colleagues from their own party, no one seems quite as hostile to the evidence as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), arguably Congress’ most zealous conspiracy theorist.

The Kentucky Republican wrote an op-ed for a right-wing website this week, and I hope readers will take a moment to appreciate Rand Paul’s approach to logic in all its glory.

The Associated Press claims the report debunks, “A series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

None of these accusations contain even a modicum of truth?

It’s important to appreciate Paul’s intellectual rigor: there are lots of allegations, and even though the evidence proves the allegations false, maybe, since there are so many of them, one of them is a little true?

As Simon Maloy noted, the Republican senator proceeded to suggest his own GOP allies may be “helping the Obama administration cover-up the truth about Benghazi.”

That’s right, it’s come to this: Republicans have uncovered a conspiracy so vast, it involves Republicans who went looking for evidence of a conspiracy.

I get the feeling that the Beltway media considers Rand Paul so “interesting” that his antics, no matter how ridiculous, simply cannot be disqualifying. But that’s a shame – his approach to Benghazi is itself a cringe-worthy embarrassment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 5, 2014

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stick A Fork In It, It’s Done”: When Even ‘Definitive’ Isn’t Enough For The House GOP

Towards the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s report on the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the document notes that the panel’s findings were the result of two years of “intensive investigation,” which included careful review of thousands of pages of materials, 20 events and hearings, and extensive interviews.

“The report,” the Republican-led Committee concluded, “is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans.”

And yet, even now, the House Republican leadership just doesn’t care.

House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Monday he will re-appoint Rep. Trey Gowdy as chairman of the Select Committee on the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya in the 114th Congress.

“On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya. Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night – and why,” Boehner said in a statement.

To date, Boehner, who didn’t want the Select Committee in the first place, has failed to identify even one of these questions that has not already been answered.

Several Senate Republicans don’t care, either.

Senate Republican leaders are under pressure from GOP lawmakers with presidential ambitions to join the House in investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), three young rising conservative stars who are weighing 2016 bids, say the Senate should participate in a joint investigation with the House.

This really is getting embarrassing.

As we talked about yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the State Department’s independent Accountability Review Board have all published reports on the 2012 attack, and each found the same thing: none of the conspiracy theories are true.

In addition, the attack has been scrutinized by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the House Oversight Committee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, each of which has held hearings, and each of which failed to find even a shred of evidence to bolster the conspiracy theorists.

Do Boehner and other Republicans believe their own allies are somehow in on the conspiracy? That GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate have somehow been co-opted into hiding imaginary evidence?

The “definitive” report, prepared by House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, makes it painfully obvious that this story has run its course. It’s over. Done. Stick a fork in it.

And yet, there’s the hapless House Speaker, pointing to questions he can’t identify, saying what the nation really needs is … another committee.

The irony is, the far-right went looking for a scandal, and in the process, they created one themselves. The political scandal isn’t the attack that left four Americans dead in Libya, it’s the ugly exploitation of the tragedy by mindless partisans looking for electoral and fundraising gimmicks, raising the prospect of important questions that have already been answered repeatedly.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2014

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Past Time For GOP To Stand Down”: Is The Benghazi Scandal Hunt Finally Over?

Is the Benghazi scandal hunt finally over? And if there’s no Benghazi scandal, could that actually mean that President Obama will reach the end of his eight years in office without an era-defining, presidency-threatening scandal on the order of Watergate or Iran-contra? To conservatives who have believed for the past two years that Benghazi would eventually show the world the true villainy of this president, this is a horrifying prospect, but it could come true.

You may have missed it in the traditional Friday news dump, but at the end of last week, the House Intelligence Committee – which, don’t forget, is run by Republicans – released a report that all but exonerated the Obama administration of having done anything, well, scandalous. “An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012,” The Post reported, “dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward.” It also found that while the talking points Susan Rice delivered in the wake of the attack were inaccurate, it was because of conflicting information coming in and not a scheme to hoodwink the public. All the conspiracy theories about a “stand-down order” and whatever else they’ve been talking about on Fox News were emphatically rejected.

On yesterday’s Sunday shows, some Republicans took the news better than others. “I thought for a long time that we ought to move beyond that,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on “Meet the Press.” But Lindsey Graham was mad as only Lindsey Graham can be. “I think the report is full of crap,” the senator from South Carolina said on CNN’s “State of the Union.””That’s a bunch of garbage. That’s a complete bunch of garbage.”

There may be no one who owes more to Benghazi than Graham, whose relentless condemnations of the administration on the issue managed to keep conservatives in South Carolina from getting too angry at him for voting for immigration reform. On this issue he has effectively channeled the right’s anger and its hope that the true scope of the scandal will be revealed any day now. Back in May, Graham proclaimed, “We now have the smoking gun” when decidedly mundane e-mails revealed that Ben Rhodes, the White House official whose job is to craft and disseminate spin on topics of national security, was in fact crafting and disseminating spin on Benghazi. A year before, Graham said, “I think the dam is about to break” on Benghazi revelations. No wonder he’s upset.

But as scandals go, Benghazi has been truly remarkable in the depths of triviality to which it sunk – which is perhaps understandable given how fruitless the search for official wrongdoing has been. To take just one example, there was actually a moment when people argued passionately about whether in the immediate aftermath Barack Obama referred to the attack as an “act of terror” or a “terrorist attack,” on the presumption that the former is weak and terrorist-coddling, while the latter is strong and terrorist-terrifying. That really happened. These days, the creation of misleading talking points is the worst crime with which Republicans can manage to charge the administration — not exactly the kind of thing that brings down a president.

Benghazi will be a vital part of the history of the Obama presidency, not for what it says about the administration but what it says about the administration’s opponents. After multiple investigations by multiple committees, endless hours of testimony, thousands of documents produced, and untold Fox News discussions (and it isn’t over yet; the select committee chaired by Trey Gowdy still has to have its say), nothing scandalous has actually been discovered. Yet the administration’s critics remain convinced that there is an awful truth somewhere waiting to be uncovered.

They felt the same way about Solyndra, and “Fast and Furious,” and the IRS. In every case the supposed scandal was greeted by Republicans with a quivering joy; they were sure the facts would be worse, and the wrongdoing reach higher, than anyone could imagine. And in every case, the more we learned, the less shocking things looked.

Like every administration, this one has had its share of screwups and missed opportunities. But it has been remarkably light on genuine scandal, the kind characterized by criminality and coverup. I’m sure there are few prospects more disturbing to conservatives than the idea that Obama may complete two terms without being laid low by a scandal. Many, if not most, on the right are convinced that he and his administration are deeply, fundamentally corrupt, and the fact that that corruption hasn’t been exposed may only be proof of just how diabolical Obama and his minions are.

But now the hour is growing late, and in the last two years of this administration there will be conflicts aplenty to occupy all of our time. For all the fulmination over the president’s immigration order, there are at least genuine issues there to be debated, issues of policy and presidential power. And the fights of the last two years are just beginning; we’ll be arguing about the budget and tax reform and health care and other issues that will arise, all while the 2016 presidential campaign is ramping up.

Benghazi is all but over, and with it the hopes of Republicans to drag Obama down into the quicksand of what they imagined would be his own wrongdoing and well-deserved ignominy. Like a lot of what Republicans have hoped for in the past few years, it just didn’t pan out. Some, like Lindsey Graham, will keep shaking their fists at the television cameras, insisting that the ghastly truth will become clear any day now. But the rest of the world will move on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 24, 2014

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Congress, House Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Choice Mr. Speaker”: House Intel Committee Finds No Benghazi Scandal; Will Boehner Ignore Its Findings?

According to Representative Mike Thompson, Democrat of California, a report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

Late last week, before Congress headed out of Washington for August recess, the body voted to declassify the document.

After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House. In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury.

House Speaker John Boehner is now left with a choice. Will he allow Rep. Trey Gowdy’s kangaroo court, formulated in the guise of a select committee, proceed with its Benghazi investigation, covering ground already delved into not only by the House Intelligence Committee, but by the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Accountability Review Board and numerous other investigatory panels?

Doing so would now be nothing short of an explicit vote of no confidence in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican. What will Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, discover that two years of investigations by his GOP colleagues could not? If the House leadership views the Intelligence Committee as that incompetent, shouldn’t its chairman be replaced?

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported in May,

“There is deep unease within the Republican leadership that the select committee, which has yet to announce a schedule of hearings, could backfire, and badly. Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives. Investigate and uncover previously-hidden secrets, and it makes all of the other Republican led panels that dug into Benghazi seem like Keystone Kops.”

But what is even more clear now than it was a few weeks ago is that, for Boehner, the appointment of the Benghazi Select Committee has nothing to do with finding the truth about the attack that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with those of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. It was theater—and bad theater at that.

Attempting to placate the ideological fringes of the Republican conference by using a taxpayer-funded investigation is at best the most cynical form of politics. To continue the charade after a Republican chairman releases findings that undermine the very core of your investigation is outright fraud.

But the Benghazi Select Committee will keep on moving forward. And it will not end after the 2014 elections. If Hillary Clinton chooses to run, the committee will become a principal tool in the conservative movement’s campaign apparatus against her, holding hearings designed to obscure the truth and smear Clinton during the least opportune moments of the electoral cycle.

And if Clinton is elected in 2016, there is little doubt the work of the committee will continue as long as Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives. Why surrender a taxpayer-funded campaign attack dog, especially one endowed by Congress with subpoena power?

 

By: Ari Rabin-Hayt, The American Prospect, August 4, 2014

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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