Democratic House Members Accuse Benghazi Panel of Abandoning Duty

The committee assigned to investigate terror attacks is instead generating anti-Hillary Clinton headlines, the lawmakers say.

his file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows an armed man waving his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi

STR/AFP/Getty Images

The five U.S. House Democrats on the special committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi on Wednesday criticized Republicans for not planned hearings this year, accusing their colleagues of instead focusing on partisan attacks against Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state now running for the Democratic nomination for president.

"It appears that much of the Select Committee's work has been shelved while Republicans pursue every possible avenue of political attack against Secretary Clinton," states a letter sent by the Democrats to committee chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. It's the latest salvo in a partisan battle over the work of the committee, formed to look into the State Department's handling of the 2012 terror attacks in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Gowdy spokesman Jamal Ware blamed "State Department stonewalling" for the delay in hearings. In a statement, the communications director for the committee Republicans also noted that the committee has conducted "more than 30 transcribed interviews" with parties in the investigation. "These private interviews provide the committee a more productive means of getting information than public hearings," the statement continued.

In their letter, the panel's Democrats, led by Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said their Republican colleagues had initially provided them with information about plans to hold 11 hearings between January and October on a wide range of topics relating to the Benghazi attacks.

Since then, however, the letter states Republicans "have completely abandoned this plan—holding no hearings at all since January and instead focusing on former Secretary Hillary Clinton.

"Amazingly, the last eight press releases on the Select Committee's webpage deal entirely with Secretary Clinton," the letter adds.

 The letter goes on to specify topics of hearings that were promised, but never held. Those include:

  •  A January hearing with State Department eyewitnesses to the attacks to address the question of what happened in Benghazi;
  • A February hearing with non-State Department eyewitnesses to the attacks to address the question of what happened in Benghazi;
  • A March hearing with State Department witnesses to address the question of "Why were we in Libya?"
  • An April hearing with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary Leon Panetta as witnesses to address the question of "Why were we in Libya?"
  • A May hearing hearing with Clinton as the planned witness to address the question of "How did we respond?";
  • A June hearing with former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morrell as the witness to address intelligence matters related to Libya, specifically about what was said after the attacks;
  • And a July hearing with former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as the witness to address the motivation of the attackers, as well as what was said after the attacks.

The letter states that the committee has not only postponed its hearings with Clinton and other State Department witnesses, "but it has abandoned all of its other hearings as well, including those examining other agencies like the Department of Defense and the CIA.

"In the entire 14 months since the Select Committee has been in existence, the Select Committee has not conducted a transcribed interview or deposition of even a single Defense Department employee," the Democrats contend, adding: "In the past, Republicans have attempted to blame the Select Committee's glacial pace on Secretary Clinton and the State Department. But it seems difficult to understand how they could be responsible for the Select Committee abandoning every single hearing it had planned to hold since January."

Republicans have acknowledged that the the findings of the Republican-led committee investigating Clinton’s response to the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, likely will not be released until next year, just months before the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats have previously noted there there already have been as many as seven congressional inquiries into the fatal Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Libya. Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and her Republican critics contend that she failed to bolster security before the assault and should share blame for what they say is the Obama administration’s initial, erroneous account that the attacks were spontaneous and not the result of a terror attack.

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