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Benghazi Committee Fights Among Itself As Hillary Clinton Enjoys The Show

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/10/2015 Amanda Terkel
ATHENA IMAGE © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

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WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton was the star on Capitol Hill Thursday, with TV crews camped outside her house all morning in anticipation of seeing her walk out her door, step into her car and drive across town to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in an appearance expected to last more than eight hours.

But the GOP-led committee and its members were on the hot seat just as much as Clinton, forced to be on their best behavior so that they wouldn't overstep and hand the former secretary of state a political victory. Again.

Indeed, the opening statements of Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the committee, respectively, both focused on intra-committee politics. Gowdy tried to argue why, although there have been seven other investigations into Benghazi, his is still necessary. Cummings called for Congress to disband the committee.

"Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your email," Gowdy said. "We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we sent into a dangerous country to represent us."

"It is time now for the Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition," Cummings said. "We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. That's what the American people want, shifting from politics to policy."

Clinton was the only one who actually spent her entire time discussing the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.


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The most heated exchange occurred right before the committee broke for lunch. And it happened not between Clinton and one of the members, but between Gowdy and Cummings.

Gowdy focused his aggressive questioning of Clinton on why she took foreign policy advice from Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend and adviser who did not work for the State Department but frequently emailed his thoughts to her.

The committee has already interviewed Blumenthal -- for nine hours -- although it was behind closed doors. Cummings has repeatedly called on Gowdy to make the transcript public, arguing it would show that Republicans are more interested in going after Clinton for partisan purposes than in getting to the bottom of the Benghazi attack. He renewed his demand on Thursday.

"I move that we put into the record the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal," Cumming said, his voice rising. "We're going to release the emails, let's do the transcript. That way the world can see it!"

Clinton, meanwhile -- no doubt happy to have a break from answering questions -- seemed to enjoy the entire exchange, often smiling and nodding.


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Gowdy has been straining to save his committee's reputation ever since late last month, when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) implied that the investigation was political and applauded it for damaging Clinton's presidential prospects. 

Since then, the hits have kept on coming, with another Republican lawmaker and a former GOP committee staffer saying the intent was to go after Clinton. Gowdy also had to return campaign donations from the Stop Hillary PAC, a group that aired a controversial ad about the Benghazi attack.

"I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life," Gowdy told Politico. 

The Benghazi investigation has lasted 17 months and cost more than $4.5 million.

In total, Congress has held 21 hearings on the Benghazi attacks in which four Americans died, across the various investigations. As a contrast, it held 22 hearings looking into what happened on 9/11, where 3,000 people died.

Most of the committee's questions to Clinton in the first half of the day did focus on Benghazi, aside from the mentions of Blumenthal by Gowdy and a couple of other members. That, however, changed when the committee came back in the afternoon, as Gowdy warned before adjourning.

“If you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far," Gowdy warned before gaveling for lunch, "wait until the next round."

When the committee returned, it voted against releasing Blumenthal's transcript on a party-line vote. As promised, Gowdy picked up his questioning about the emails.


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