Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy says demands by Ranking Minority Member Elijah Cummings and other committee Democrats to have input in drafting its final report is "mildly amusing," considering their ongoing attempts to obstruct the investigation.
"It is mildly amusing that after two years of abject obstruction, after two years of not lifting a finger to assist the Majority with the investigation, after two years of doing everything in your power to prevent a report from being written, you now want to participate," Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, wrote in a letter to Cummings
made public Monday.
"Any reasonable observer would conclude you want to 'work' on the report solely so you can leak and mischaracterize the new facts you now acknowledge have been found as a result of this investigation.
"That is what you have habitually done in the past, which is precisely why you are currently able to read the recent transcripts of witness interviews but not possess them. You have become a serial leaker of information."
The committee has spent two years probing the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Democrats have called the investigation a fishing expedition aimed to discredit Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.
Last Friday, The New York Times
said in an editorial that the committee's probe is at a "dead end" and Gowdy "ran the probe with the dexterity and grace of a blindfolded toddler swinging at a piñata." The newspaper noted some Republican lawmakers have suggested the inquiry is targeting Clinton.
Gowdy said in his letter: "Let me refresh your recollection of how helpful you have been during the course of this investigation: 'I do not believe a Select Committee is called for,' you stated when you were appointed to the Committee by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on May 21, 2014.
"You made it clear then the Minority would be 'in that room' for 'two reasons,' both of which were about opposing the work of the Committee, not gathering new evidence or fulfilling the duty of Congress to conduct oversight.
During your Sept. 16, 2014, press conference unveiling a website of questions you believed to be fully 'asked and answered' — before the Committee had interviewed a single witness — you and other members of the Minority continued to argue there was no reason for the Committee to do any work."
Gowdy noted that in October 2015, all five of the Committee's Minority members voted to disband the Committee.
"That month, Rep. Adam Smith said, 'We've learned absolutely nothing new. … From the very beginning I was skeptical that anything new could be found. This committee is proving it.'" Gowdy wrote.
"Rep. Adam Schiff wrote, 'the committee has gained no additional insight into the attacks in Benghazi' and 'has nothing new to tell the families of those killed or the American people.' Similarly, on separate occasions last year, you said the Committee has 'nothing to show' for its work and has 'turned up nothing.'
"If it were true … it makes little sense for the Minority to suddenly be interested in the Committee's report. Moreover, you have spent far more time writing letters, selectively leaking material, and spreading mischaracterizations than you have actually participating in this investigation.
He alleged that Democrats have attempted to discredit the committee over and over again.
"To refresh your recollection of just a few examples, the Minority selectively leaked and trumpeted a partisan attack by a Pentagon political appointee despite knowing the letter had a plethora of factual inaccuracies," Gowdy wrote.
"You misrepresented comments made by Majority members of the Committee while ignoring the fact a partisan political group allied with you had debunked your distortion."
Gowdy said when the committee was formed, "I believed the American people would be best served by a joint investigation conducted in a serious and bipartisan manner.
"My decision to conduct a fair investigation focused on the facts stands in stark contrast to your approach. Several news outlets have taken note of your focus on acting as the former Secretary's 'defense attorney,' 'chief defender,' 'top supporter,' 'staunch defender,' and 'biggest defender.'
"It has also been reported she is 'personally grateful' for your constant attacks on this Committee. As one news anchor concluded, 'the Democrats have … [tried] to discredit and undermine their own committee.' It is telling that when questioned by The Washington Post, your staff did not deny "strategic coordination with the campaign."
Gowdy said to Cummings that "despite your best efforts to prevent it from happening, actually talking to eyewitnesses and actually accessing relevant documents has produced new information. Sadly, if you had helped even a little bit we could have accessed this information sooner.
"But there is no statute of limitations on the truth. It took longer than I wanted, but we are finally going to be able to answer questions left unanswered by previous investigations. So, I full well understand why you now have changed your tune.
Despite your efforts to undermine and obstruct our fact-centered work, rest assured all members of the Committee will have the opportunity to review the report and offer changes in a manner consistent with the rules of the House. Then, after the Committee completes its work, the American people will be able to … judge for themselves the value and fairness of our investigation."
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