The Benghazi Investigation And Democrats In Glass Houses

Kenneth Timmerman President, Foundation for Democracy in Iran
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Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN) is just the latest Democrat to work himself up into a lather over Kevin McCarthy’s superlative gaffe about the Benghazi Select Committee. On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Ellison claimed the Select Committee was the longest-ever Congressional investigation, “longer even than Watergate.”

In the crosstalk with other guests he jumped up and down in his seat, chanting, “let’s shut it down. Let’s shut it down now.” You could almost see him waving his rattle and sucking his thumb.

Of course, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led the charge several days earlier, unwilling to let a good gaffe go to waste. Almost before the words had slipped from McCarthy’s lips last week, she paraded in front of the cameras to self-righteously demand that Congress shut down the Benghazi investigation, “the longest congressional investigation in U.S. history.”

That claim is so far from the truth even the left-wing “fact-checkers” ought to catch it.

Here are just a few examples of Democrat-led “investigations” into alleged Republican executive branch “malfeasance” that lasted far longer than the 16 months of the Benghazi Select Committee:

  • Iran-contra. While the initial hearings proceeded quickly and lasted from just May 5 through August 6, 1987 (because the Reagan administration complied and made all officials available, including active duty CIA clandestine officers), Congressional hearings dragged on for another two years. And Lawrence Walsh, the administration-appointed Special Counsel, didn’t issue his final report until August 1993.
  • October Surprise. Without a doubt the most egregious, blatantly political “investigation” in recent memory, this one was jinned up whole cloth in 1991 by Gary Sick, a National Security Council official during the Carter administration, in another blatant effort to derail the re-election of Bush 41. First a Senate panel investigated Sick’s bogus charges and dismissed them; then a specially-created House October Surprise Task Force spent $1.5 million (far more than the Benghazi panel has spent) to reach a similar conclusion after interviewing more than 230 potential witnesses in several countries.

The Benghazi Select Committee was created in May 2014. Chairman Trey Gowdy said from the start that he had no intention of dragging out the investigation, but that the committee needed “all” the documents before it could convoke Hillary Clinton to testify. And that meant Mrs. Clinton’s Libya-related emails.

For the first seven months of its existence, the administration stonewalled repeated requests for those emails. Nor would it allow security officers who had been present during the 13 hour-long battle to testify, or even grant the necessary security clearances to the committee’s chief investigative counsel, 3-star U.S. Army General Dana Chipman, the just-retired chief of the Army’s Judge Advocate General corps.

Once the State Department started to produce documents in December 2014, it became apparent that Mrs. Clinton had not been using the State Department email server, a fact that raised a whole host of questions.

But it wasn’t Chairman Gowdy who first revealed Mrs. Clinton’s strange email practices: it was the State Department itself, starting with a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch.

On Feb. 2, 2015, State Department lawyers sent Judicial Watch a CYA letter alerting them that new records had just come to their attention requiring them to conduct a new search for documents responsive to a Judicial Watch FOIA request on Benghazi that had been closing down. Oops.

One month later, on March 2, the New York Times broke the news of the private email server on its website, and ran the story on the front page the next day. And then the story spread across cable TV and the blogosphere like blood on a slaughterhouse floor. Judicial Watch chief Tom Fitton jumped on it immediately, warning of the possible mishandling of classified information.

Reps. Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi Select Committee, both commented on the story on March 3, 2015, with reporters commenting that Democrats were doing their best to “contain the fallout for Hillary Clinton.” (A more complete timeline of the events surrounding Mrs. Clinton’s private email server is here.)

Mrs. Clinton’s private email address was published by Gawker.com exactly two years earlier, with the claim that a hacker known as “Guccifer” had broken into her account, publishing several weird-sounding “intelligence briefings” sent to her by former Clinton White House aide Sid Blumenthal.

I remember looking at the Guccifer allegations at the time, as I was writing my book on Benghazi. The way they were being pushed by Russia Today and the Iranian government’s Press TV, and the total lack of pick-up by any reputable news organization in the United States, led me to discard the story as time-consuming disinformation, especially since I was following what I thought were more burning topics. Mistake.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy deserves whatever damage to his political aspirations he self-inflicted with his gaffe.

But Democrats don’t get to reinvent history, although (once again) they keep trying.