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“An Expensive And Partisan Excursion Into Nowhere”: Benghazi! Why Trey Gowdy Is Still Hiding Blumenthal Transcript

The strange saga of the House Select Committee on Benghazi continues as its chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) fends off renewed questions about the committee’s purpose, as well as demands to release the sworn deposition of Sidney Blumenthal, taken behind closed doors on June 16.

In a July 7 CNN interview, Hillary Clinton – the actual target of Gowdy’s investigation – brushed off accusations about her use of a private email server and mocked his partisan probe. “This is being blown up with no basis in law or in fact,” she said. “That’s fine. I get it. This is being, in effect, used by the Republicans in the Congress, OK. But I want people to understand what the truth is. And the truth is everything I did was permitted and I went above and beyond what anybody could have expected in making sure that if the State Department [servers] didn’t capture something, I made a real effort to get it to them.”

Gowdy answered by reiterating previous claims that only his committee’s intrepid work had revealed Clinton’s email practices. “The fact of the matter is it took the Benghazi Committee to uncover Secretary Clinton’s use of personal email and a server to conduct official State Department business,” the chairman insisted after her interview aired. He went on to make a series of further accusations about the emails, insisting that the messages about Libya sent to her by Sidney Blumenthal were “solicited” by her and not, as she described them, “unsolicited.”

These disputes might be cleared up if Gowdy would release Blumenthal’s testimony, since he answered all the committee’s questions on these and other matters under oath.

In actuality, Blumenthal probably mentioned the indisputable fact that Clinton’s use of a private email server was revealed not by the Benghazi committee but by a Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” — now serving time in prison for stealing messages from Blumenthal as well as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Dorothy Bush, the sister of former president George W. Bush. Many of those emails, obtained by Guccifer in a suspected Russian intelligence operation, were published on the Internet months before the Benghazi committee came into existence.

And Blumenthal surely noted, again under oath, that his emails to Clinton were “unsolicited,” despite Gowdy’s strained attempt to prove otherwise — as Gowdy undoubtedly knows. That is one of many reasons why he continues to suppress the former Clinton aide’s testimony. The excuse proffered by committee Republicans is that releasing closed testimony might discourage candor by future witnesses – an argument undercut by letters from Blumenthal attorney James Cole, urging the committee to release it.

No, it is now clear that Gowdy prefers to leak the Blumenthal testimony to smear both Clinton and the witness he claims to be protecting. For weeks, snippets of Blumenthal’s testimony and of his emails to and from Clinton have turned up in the media, to advance negative, highly distorted perceptions of both the former Secretary of State and her longtime friend.

These cowardly, bullying tactics are designed not only to embarrass Clinton and Blumenthal but to justify the committee’s increasingly expensive and partisan excursion into nowhere.

On July 7, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen too took a hard shot at Gowdy, under the headline “Placating The Right-Wing Clinton Haters.” He capably sums up the results of the committee’s inquisition into Blumenthal and Clinton:

The committee, the eighth to look into the Benghazi matter and determine if Clinton, as Secretary of State, was somehow complicit in the deaths of four colleagues — you know, those Clintons are capable of anything —asked Blumenthal 160 questions regarding his relationship with Clinton and fewer than 20 regarding Benghazi. (The Democratic minority kept count.)

The committee also asked Blumenthal more than 50 questions about his relationship with the Clinton Foundation and only four about security in Benghazi [the ostensible purpose of its existence]. Blumenthal was additionally asked more than 270 questions about his business dealings in Libya, which, considering that he has none, is commendable thoroughness run amok.

The committee in its wisdom came to appreciate that regarding Libya, Blumenthal not only had no business interests there, but also that he had never even been in the country. The emails concerning Libya that he had passed on to Clinton had come originally from Tyler Drumheller, the CIA’s one-time top spy and someone who just might have had something interesting to say. It seemed reasonable to Blumenthal to relay them to Clinton and it seemed reasonable for her to relay them to her staff for vetting. In fact, it seems downright admirable, because the last thing you want is a government official who operates in a bubble. Given what the committee learned, its Republican majority then nimbly pivoted from insinuating a Blumenthal conflict of interest over Libya to accusing him of having nothing of interest to say about it. They got him there.

The Republicans, led by Gowdy, have learned little of significance, despite spending millions of taxpayer dollars. But they have keenly pursued political matters of interest to them, such as Blumenthal’s work for Correct The Record, a political committee that publicly defends Clinton and other Democrats, and Media Matters for America, the watchdog against right-wing misinformation wherever it appears. Today Gowdy also received a sharply worded letter from David Brock, the founder of both groups, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who chairs Correct The Record’s board.

Noting that Gowdy and other Republican committee members asked at least 45 questions about Blumenthal’s “association with our organizations,” the letter from Brock and Townsend urged him to disgorge the testimony in full:

Mr. Chairman, we are entitled to know what questions you and other committee members asked about our organizations in Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition. Judging by the portions that have been leaked to favored people in the press and various right-wing blogs by Republican committee staff aides in direct violation of your committee’s own rules, presumably with your approval, aspersions have been cast upon our work. Your unethical leaking was a further abuse of Congressional power. The only way we can clear our good name is by knowing exactly what innuendoes and insinuations Republican members made about us behind the committee’s closed doors.

Indeed, Gowdy no longer seems to expect anyone to believe his denials that the leaks emanate from him and his staff. In his Washington Post media blog, Erik Wemple wrote that the Select Committee chair seemed to “wink” at a recent leak to Politico that sparked a brief controversy last week. And nobody else would have either the motive or the opportunity to orchestrate the leak campaign.

Meanwhile, the New York Times and other outlets that have published the leaks continue to slant their reporting against Blumenthal and Clinton. The easiest way to measure the Times bias is to note that Blumenthal’s attorney, former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, has written not one or two but three pungent letters to Gowdy, protesting the committee’s cheap-shot leakage and urging the release of his client’s testimony. For reasons best known to Michael S. Schmidt, the Times reporter covering the Benghazi committee, the paper has failed to mention those letters from Cole, let alone to quote them.

Times editors might well ask themselves why their Washington bureau is in cahoots with a congressional committee that epitomizes partisan abuse. Even Maureen Dowd, of all people, understood what was going on when she aptly renamed it “the House Select Committee To Keep Republicans in Power and Harass Hillary Clinton.”

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post,  The National Memo, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Benghazi Committee Sinks Deeper Into Absurdity”: Can’t Pretend Any Longer That They’re Trying To Figure Out What Happened

Sidney Blumenthal has now been deposed by the select committee investigating the deaths of four Americans at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September of 2012. While Blumenthal is an interesting Washington character and one who is particularly despised by Republicans, the fact that he was there at all shows just what a joke the Republicans’ Benghazi enterprise has become (if it was ever anything else).

When Rep. Trey Gowdy was first appointed to lead this committee a year ago, Republicans fell all over themselves to extol him as the perfect choice to lead the committee, because he’s such a serious, sober investigator who would stick to the facts and get to the truth. We’d finally learn why those Americans died, and who was to blame! But by now, Gowdy has become nothing more than a glorified RNC researcher, casting about desperately for something, anything that will reflect poorly on Hillary Clinton and damage her presidential campaign.

To explain briefly what this deposition was about: Sid Blumenthal is a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton who worked in the White House while Bill was president (if you want to remind yourself about who Blumenthal is and the details of his relationship to the Clintons, read this exhaustive article by Dylan Matthews). While Clinton was secretary of state, he was in communication with her, often sending her emails with his perspective on various issues. He sent her some memos on Libya that were actually written by Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA official then pursuing business interests there. Some of Drumheller’s analysis was accurate, some of it wasn’t. Clinton forwarded some of these emails to other people within the State Department.

If you’re an aficionado of the internal workings of government agencies and how information circulates within them, you might find this fascinating. But it’s hard to see what exactly is the scandal or crime here, or what it has to do with the events in Benghazi. Let’s look at what Trey Gowdy had to say:

“You can determine for yourself whether someone who has a pecuniary interest in a country, how that might impact the accuracy of the information that was passed on,” Gowdy said…

Gowdy framed Clinton as irresponsible for welcoming and forwarding the Blumenthal memos since the government never vetted their author or the sources behind his information.

“You have an intelligence apparatus at your disposal. We have a CIA. Why would you not rely on your own vetted, sourced intelligence agency?” he said.

First of all, the fact that Clinton read Drumheller’s memos doesn’t mean she or anybody else was ignoring what the CIA and officials within the State Department were saying — that’s just silly. Maybe secretaries of state should refuse to listen to outside sources like Drumheller, or maybe they shouldn’t; you could make a case either way. But more to the point, who cares? What does this have to do with the events in Benghazi?

I suppose if Drumheller had written, “Benghazi is quiescent and will remain so; our government shouldn’t worry about security there,” and then Clinton had forwarded the memo along with an order to remove all the guards from the consulate, Gowdy might really have something. But that’s not what happened, and he knew it before he ever got Blumenthal before his committee.

So what, precisely, is Trey Gowdy now doing? He doesn’t seem to be investigating the deaths of those four Americans anymore, that’s for sure.

Let’s be clear: Congress has every right to look into Benghazi as much as they like. They’re supposed to engage in oversight of the executive branch, and if they want to explore American policy toward Libya then they should go right ahead. But they can’t pretend any longer that they’re trying to figure out what happened on that night in 2012. They set up this special committee for that purpose, but it seems clear they figured out pretty quickly that they wouldn’t be uncovering anything new about that topic. Which isn’t surprising, since the matter had already been investigated by multiple committees controlled by Republicans, all of which were unable to find the wrongdoing they hoped for.

So now, instead of a committee to investigate the Benghazi deaths, they’re running a Select Committee to Make the Case That Hillary Clinton Was a Bad Secretary of State. It’s another reminder that the Clintons have always been blessed by the incompetence of their adversaries.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line Blog, June 17, 2015

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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