Washington, DC – Today, Ranking Member Adam Smith of the House Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings of the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent a letter to Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, objecting to the “repeated, unnecessary, and ever-changing demands” his effort has placed on the Defense Department in order to save face after the Benghazi Committee’s widely criticized hearing with Secretary Clinton.
“Our nation’s warfighters are charged with a solemn responsibility, but your evolving list of increasing demands is now putting a strain on the Pentagon that is completely unwarranted, unreasonable, and unjustified,” Cummings and Smith wrote. “Based on this record, it appears that following the 11-hour-marathon hearing with Secretary Clinton, Republicans have exponentially increased their interview requests to the Department of Defense to pad their numbers in a desperate attempt to redeem the Select Committee’s credibility.”
In particular, the letter points out that Gowdy failed to disclose that his own former Republican Chief Counsel—a retired three-star general with more than 33 years of service—repeatedly made statements in closed-door interviews that contradict Chairman Gowdy’s claims that the Benghazi Committee has made “breakthrough” discoveries that have not already been addressed by inquiries from other committees and an independent panel.
For example, the Select Committee conducted an interview with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. According to the transcript of that interview, Gowdy’s former Chief Counsel stated:
“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region. And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”
The Republican Chief Counsel acknowledged that it is clear from the time and distances involved that none of the military forces could have gotten to Benghazi in time to save lives. According to the transcript, he stated:
“And, again, sir, I don’t mean to suggest that anything could have been done differently to affect the outcome in Benghazi, and I think you would agree with that.”
The Select Committee also conducted an interview with the Defense Department’s former Chief of Staff, Jeremy Bash. According to the transcript of that interview, Gowdy’s Chief Counsel stated:
“I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya. So let me start with that positing or that stipulation.”
According to the transcript, while the Republican Chief Counsel questioned whether the military bureaucracy could have moved faster that night and whether the forces should have been postured differently, he acknowledged:
“I don’t see any way to influence what occurred there. But what I am worried about is we’re caught by surprise on 9/11, we’ve got nothing postured to respond in a timely manner—and you can debate what’s timely, what’s untimely, but nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi.”
These conclusions match the findings—from more than two years ago—of the House Committee on Armed Services. Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican Chairman who led that investigation, stated, “I think I’ve pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did.”
The letter from Cummings and Smith concludes:
“By dragging out the investigation so close to the presidential election, demanding that the Defense Department waste countless hours and taxpayer funds tracking down individuals who call into Sean Hannity’s radio show or post political messages on Facebook, and threatening to subpoena military service members who are serving our nation overseas, your actions have damaged the credibility of the Select Committee beyond repair.”
On April 28, the Department of Defense sent a letter objecting to the “recent crescendo” of new and frivolous demands from Republicans, such as their demands to search for an individual identified only by his first name and home state—“John from Iowa”—who called into Sean Hannity’s radio program, and to interview another individual based on his political postings on Facebook.
Gowdy sent a letter dismissing the Defense Department’s objections as “overtly partisan,” and he has claimed that he has “new facts that significantly impact our understanding of what happened before, during, and after Benghazi.”
Democrats have repeatedly called on Gowdy to release the full transcripts of all witness interviews to the American public, but he has refused. Instead, he began withholding interview transcripts from Democratic Members and staff.
Read the full letter from Ranking Members Cummings and Smith.