Democrats on the House panel investigating the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi are invoking a "right" they say permits them to force a public committee vote on releasing Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal's closed-door testimony.
The five Democrats are making the demand in a letter dated Wednesday to the committee chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Led by Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Democrats write that the panel's deposition procedures, as adopted by the House, allow them to require the committee to "promptly schedule a public business meeting to consider, debate and vote on the proposal to release Sidney Blumenthal's deposition transcript."
They say release of a transcript of Blumenthal's closed-door testimony "will resolve public disagreements that have arisen from the selective-and sometimes inaccurate-descriptions of his testimony and his emails that have appeared in the press."
Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee's Republican majority, accused the Democrats of spurning Gowdy's offer to discuss the issue. "Chairman Gowdy atempted to schedule a meeting," Ware said in a statement, "but the Democrats chose to send out a press release instead." He noted that Blumenthal is being treated just like every other person who has testified. "The committee has not released the transcript of any other witness and the chairman is not inclined to treat this witness differently," Ware said.
Blumenthal was called to give a closed-door deposition last week about memos and advice on Libya he sent then-Secretary of State Clinton prior to the attacks on the U.S. facilities in which four Americans were killed.
Since then, there have been leaks to the media about his emails to Clinton about Libya and Benghazi when she was secretary of state. The committee released 60 of those missives last week, but not any of Blumenthal's testimony. The committee Democrats, and Blumenthal's lawyer, James Cole, have complained some of those have given an inaccurate account of what occurred in the deposition.
In their letter, the committee Democrats say that the procedure for releasing depositions is specifically spelled out in a committee rule. They say it reads: "The chair and ranking minority member shall consult regarding the release of depositions. If either objects in writing to a proposed release of a deposition or a portion thereof, the matter shall be promptly referred to the Select Committee for resolution."
"It appears that all of the prerequisites have been filled," the Democratic lawmakers wrie, which notes Democrats began asking for the public release of the Blumenthal transcript last week.
"Since all of the steps have been fulfilled as required by the Deposition Procedures adopted by the House, we request that you promptly schedule a business meeting of the Select Committee so Members may consider, debate, and vote on this important matter," they write.