A Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi is calling for an end to the investigative body, but Republicans are hitting back hard, pointing out that the lawmaker, Adam Schiff, has largely served “in absentia,” attending only one of 45 interviews the committee has conducted.
Schiff, from California, issued the call to disband the committee in a New York Times op-ed published on Friday. He claimed that the panel has lost sight of it purpose of investigating the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and is now focused only on taking down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The committee is solely concerned with damaging her candidacy, searching for something, anything, that can be insinuated against her,” Schiff wrote in the op-ed.
But Republicans questioned how Schiff could make such a plea given that he’s rarely around to observe the committee’s work.
“It is interesting he made this call considering Mr. Schiff himself has only attended one of the more-than-45 interviews conducted to date by the Select Committee on Benghazi,” Jamal Ware, a spokesman for committee Republicans said in a statement on Friday.
“In fact, save for voting no to create the committee and then attending a press event on the now well-disproven Democrat talking point that all has been ‘asked and answered,’ Mr. Schiff has largely been a Member of the committee in absentia.”
Democrats and Republicans have battled over the direction of the committee since it was formed last year. Schiff, like nearly all House Democrats, voted against setting it up in the first place.
“Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president,” Schiff wrote in his op-ed.
While Republicans have long questioned decisions made by Clinton and her State Department aides before and after the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead, the Benghazi Committee took a new direction when it discovered that Clinton used an off-the-books email account during her time in office.
That discovery, which Ware notes would not have come about without the committee, has ballooned into a scandal in which the FBI is involved.
Meanwhile, the committee has interviewed several of Clinton’s aides and associates. Clinton herself is scheduled to testify publicly next month.
Ware also noted that Schiff was not present during testimony given Thursday by top Clinton aide, Cheryl Mills. He also slammed Democrats for leaking information about that testimony.
“Perhaps Mr. Schiff could shed some light on the testimony offered yesterday by Ms. Mills — the Democrats seemed to have a lot to selectively leak about that session despite the fact that Chairman Gowdy and Ranking Member Cummings agreed to treat the session as classified,” Ware wrote. “But that would have required Mr. Schiff to actually show up, something he has not done during the pendency of the Benghazi Investigation.”
Maryland U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, responded to Ware’s statement later on Friday.
“Congressman Schiff’s op-ed in the New York Times seems to have struck a nerve with the Republican press staffer on the Benghazi Committee, who responded by posting a bizarre, highly defensive, and erratic statement overflowing with false claims,” Cummings said. In particular, he disputed Ware’s claim that he and Gowdy agreed that Mills’ interview would be treated as classified.
This post has been updated with Cummings’ statement.