Mike Burgess: Benghazi Panel Must Have Power to File Charges

Saturday, 03 May 2014 10:43 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Rep. Mike Burgess said on Saturday that it's critical that the head of the impending select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks "be able to bring charges directly in federal court and not go through the attorney general."

"It has to have subpoena power," the Texas Republican told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News program. "I just want the answers. I want some peace for these families."

House Speaker John Boehner said on Friday that the GOP-controlled chamber will vote next week to establish a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALs.

The Ohio Republican is considering South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor who is in his second term, to head the panel.

Boehner's decision followed the release Tuesday of an email obtained by Judicial Watch through a lawsuit against the State Department showing Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes counseling former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Muslim video.

Besides Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and former SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, died in the assaults.

Burgess, 63, who is in his sixth House term, was among many Republicans who called for a select committee last year. Retiring Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration's response to the Libyan attacks, proposed the resolution that legislators will vote on this coming week.

In his interview, Burgess told Huckabee that the select committee would bring together the investigations under way by five House panels: armed services, intelligence, foreign affairs, judiciary, and oversight and government reform.

"It's not like people haven't done work — they have — but it's like you have five fingers with no palm," Burgess said. "You can't get a grasp.

"You can't get a purchase on anything because where one committee's jurisdiction runs out, another committee's might pick up — but you don't always have that continuity. The continuity is something that will be provided.

"This has been a heavy burden to carry," added Burgess, who sits on the Oversight Committee. "That is why we are not proceeding with this investigation.

"Everywhere I go, in Texas or otherwise, I have to answer that question. For the first time, yesterday, I felt like I no longer had to answer that question. Let's get to the facts."

Subpoenaing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could involve "some legal issues" — but Burgess said she "should volunteer" to testify before a select committee.

"For the life of me, I can’t believe that she would not want to come before the committee if asked and be forthcoming," he told Huckabee.

He said that Clinton, who was succeeded by former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in January, told legislators in a classified briefing shortly after the attacks that "I want to get to the bottom of it. The Accountability Review Board will be thorough. It will be ruthless. It will get to the bottom of it."

The board, convened by the State Department to investigate the attacks, was criticized by Republicans for its lack of independence and other issues. The panel gave an advance copy of the report to Clinton before it was released publicly last September.

"The Accountability Review Board didn't find anything and has held no one accountable," Burgess said. "I think that she would want to be true to her word, and for that reason should not have to be compelled to testify."

Further, he believes that the committee would be able to subpoena survivors of the attacks that night. Republicans have also accused the White House of blocking Congress from talking with those who were on the ground that night.

"For some of those individuals, they actually need a subpoena, otherwise, they can't come forward and testify because of the nature of the work they were doing on the ground," Burgess said. "Finally, we will be able to cut through some of those blocking issues and bring forth the people who can actually provide the information.

"There were three attacks — over seven, eight hours. That whole business of, 'We didn't have time to get there' — you didn't know how long it was going to last.

"Please," Burgess implored, "will somebody explain that fact to the American people, because I struggle with that every night."

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