WASHINGTON — It is September 11th, and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar is lounging in the trunk of his scheduler’s blue Mercedes mini-SUV as it speeds along to the State Department.
We’ve attempted to load six people into a five-seater car, and the congressman has decided that the best way to do that is to sit in the trunk.
“Duck down. Cop,” says his scheduler, and Gosar leans back a little farther.
Our party of two staffers, three reporters, and one congressman stuck in the trunk is on the way to Foggy Bottom so the congressman can deliver a letter about the Benghazi victims to a State official on the one-year anniversary of the attacks that killed four Americans at the U.S. Consulate there.
“A year’s gone by and we have no further answers,” Gosar told us, saying it was “outrageous.”
So he wanted to deliver a letter to try to move the process along a little faster. In the letter, he asks for “Assistance in expediting the collection and reporting of information,” and requested the answer to several questions.
Gosar is a member of the House oversight committee, which has an ongoing investigation into the attacks. But he was taking this particular foray on his own, something he said made the committee “a little bit nervous.”
“The thing about it is, I’m one of these people that if you’re not getting anywhere, you’ve got to change it up, and you’ve got to ask more questions, and that means that if individuals have to start taking this into their hands and start trying to get different results from a different methodology, you’ve got to,” Gosar explains on the car ride home. “I’m results-oriented. I was always a solutions guy.”
As we drive to the State Department, Gosar discusses some of the town halls he held in his home district over the August recess. He tells us he has three rules: he’ll talk to anyone, but they have to “be civil”; if someone wants to “rant and rave,” the first thing he’ll do is ask them what their solution is. If they don’t have one, he won’t bother to answer their question. If they do have one, he’ll bring it up for a group discussion and ask other participants to weigh in. He asks that during that time, people listen to their neighbors — “you might learn something.”
All that talking takes time. Sometimes, he says, he’ll literally “wear people out” with these events.
When we arrive at the State Department, Gosar hops out of the trunk, signs the letter, and heads over to his pre-scheduled appointment with a deputy assistant secretary. His press secretary goes with him, and his scheduler drives the car around.
We reporters awkwardly linger in front of the State Department, with the guards occasionally glancing over. After one reporter gets in a couple verbal scuffles with one of the guards, and his supervisor arrives, we head back to the car, which is parked a couple of blocks away at the corner of E Street and 23rd Street NW, out of the line of vision of any guards or cops.
“I figured it would be better to load him in the trunk up here,” the scheduler says.
The visit is initially expected to run about 45 minutes: Gosar is going to drop off the letter, and then we’ll head back to the Capitol in time, presumably to get Gosar to the 11 a.m. 9/11 remembrance service being held at the Capital.
But after listening to Gosar’s style of conducting town halls, that sounds unlikely, and sure enough, it is 11:15 when he finally calls to say that he is on his way back to the car. As it turns out, that had more to do with increased security for the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks than with the congressman.
Loading Gosar back in the trunk is a bit more of a challenge, and this time we have an audience of several people waiting to cross the street. The congressman casually gets in, as if this is the most normal thing in the world to do, as a girl on the corner looks over and giggles.
His scheduler tries to close the trunk from the car, but that does not work, and ultimately someone has to get out and close him in, as people on the sidewalk continued to titter.
The meeting was “very cordial” and with “very nice people,” Gosar tells us, though he says their answers to his questions were not particularly illuminating.
Gosar had asked in his letter whether private emails might have been used for official State Department correspondence, “who gave final approval” for the anti-Muslim video story that was initially given to explain the attack, and “who approved the order not send a military rescue for the diplomatic staff?”
He already had some ideas about who was likely to blame.
“I was very explicit that the president is involved,” he said, saying President Barack Obama had repeated the claim, that later proved false, that the attack was the result of an anti-Muslim video.
“He’s the boss. … Everything comes back to the boss,” Gosar said.
“We’ve seen the hands of Ms. Clinton. … Her fingerprints are all over this as well,” Gosar added.
“She’s part of this narrative. And I find it offensive, absolutely offensive, that someone said ‘What does it matter?’ It matters a lot. That’s someone’s daughter or son,” he said.
“What if it happened to Chelsea?” he asked. “She would really care about what was going on.”
September 11, 2013
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary, U.S. Department of State
Dear Secretary Kerry:
It is now the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. As you know, our assets there were destroyed and four Americans—including a United States Ambassador—were brutally killed.
I am writing to ask your assistance in expediting the collection and reporting of information concerning what happened that night and the ensuing response from the administration. I am a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating what happened during the attack and what transpired afterwards so that the families of the victims—in addition to the American public at-large—may find closure. I do not intend to duplicate the Oversight Committee’s efforts, but I share Chairman Issa’s frustration with the prolonged delays shown by the State Department in response to Chairman Issa’s May 15, 2013 letter seeking documents and the May 28, 2013 subpoena issued by the committee.
I am concerned that administration officials are circumventing the Freedom of Information Act by utilizing private emails for official business. The actions of former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson have raised the prospect that other administration officials are using secret emails to obscure what is being done, and by whom. Further, we still do not have information about the decision to fabricate a cover story about a video leading to the Benghazi attack and the decision to blame Americans for the attack instead of factually disclosing that it was the result of a premeditated terrorist attack.
I also remain troubled by the lack of transparency from the administration with regard to disclosing who made the decision to order our military rescue teams to stand down, thereby abandoning our men in the field.
I am now asking the following information be provided:
(1) Are any State Department employees using private email accounts to conduct official business?
(2) Has any review or audit been conducted internally to determine if employees are using personal or non-governmental emails to conduct official business?
(3) Who gave final approval for Ambassador Susan Rice to tell the public and the media that the attack in Benghazi was a spontaneous attack stemming from protests about a video?
(4) Why did the State Department want to mislead the public as to the cause of the attack on Benghazi? What was to gain by blaming the attack on a video as opposed to disclosing the truth—that the attack was a terrorist plot?
(5) Typically we never leave our men on the field of battle. It is the one truism upon which our men and women in uniform used to be able to rely. Who approved the order not to send a military rescue for the diplomatic staff? What was the reasoning? Is this decision a change in longstanding policy or a one-time aberration?
I look forward to your response addressing these issues. It is my belief we can learn from our mistakes, and clearly, many mistakes were made before and after the Benghazi attack. American blood has paid for those mistakes, and we owe it to them to get to the bottom of this and create a better path forward.
Paul Gosar (AZ-04)
Cc: Chairman Darrell Issa
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings