WASHINGTON, DC — Two top Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues on Wednesday for the “insulting way” they have carried out a year and a half worth of investigations into the supposed Benghazi scandal, urging them to relent and focus on preventing another such tragedy from occurring.
Reps. Adam Smith (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are the ranking members on the House committees on Armed Services and Oversight respectively, two of the four that have devoted considerable time and effort to getting to the bottom of just what happened the night of the Benghazi attack in 2012. Together they have sat through dozens of hours of hearings and depositions related to the Obama administration’s response to the assault that left four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, dead at its end. “When something happens like happens in Benghazi,” Smith said, “we absolutely have to investigate, we have to exercise [our] oversight function in a responsible manner to figure out what happened and most importantly how to prevent it from happening again.”
But enough is enough according, they said. “That’s the great tragedy of this investigation that the Republicans have led,” Smith said, calling it “relentlessly partisan” and focused on finding something that can be used to embarrass the administration. Smith pointed to the fact that a week after the attack a Republican member of Congress first mentioned possible impeachment as evidence of the blatantly partisan tenor the investigations have taken on from the start.
“As a member of the Armed Services Committee, my biggest objection is that it makes Congress look bad and it undermines the legitimate reason that we should be exercising oversight,” Smith said. “When you do that, when you [launch investigations] in a partisan manner as the Republicans have done … we are not performing the function we are supposed to be performing, which is smart, valid oversight,” he continued.
“Frankly, it is an embarrassment for our committees,” Cummings agreed. “It undermines our credibility, and nobody will take us seriously.” Cummings also hit out at Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), noting the numerous times he has massaged facts or outright fabricated them in order to move the Benghazi scandal forward. “Take a minute and think about what he suggested: that Hillary Clinton told the Secretary of Defense of the United States to withhold military assistance when her friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were dying,” Cummings said, referring to the conspiracy theory that the Obama adminsitration had ordered the military to “stand down” the night of the attack. Despite a Republican-written report debunking the existence of such an order, Issa went on to repeat the claim only days later. “That is a horrendous and baseless accusation,” Cummings chided.
The latest push from the GOP to rekindle Benghazi involved calling Gen. Carter Ham (Ret.), the former commander of U.S. Africa Command, before a closed session of the Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning. This, Cummings pointed out, marked the sixth time that Ham had been compelled to appear before Congress since the attack nearly nineteen months ago. “This is the insulting way Republicans have conducted this investigation,” Cummings lamented. “Instead of honoring his service and looking for ways to save future lives, Republicans are playing a game of political ‘gotcha’ with our military.”
Smith described the process that Republicans have taken in the Benghazi instance as “throwing something against the wall and hoping something sticks” without any basis in fact. “There’s too many hypothetical, too many suppositions,” he said, in response to a question from the crowd about allegations that former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell’s helping clear the pathway for Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential run. The question, Smith added, mirrored the Republican model of “make it up first, then try to figure it out later.” Cummings jumped in, adding: “Try to find facts that don’t exist to support the allegation.”
Democrats have spent the last few weeks urging their friends across the aisle to end their Benghazi witchhunt, citing a recent letter from the Department of Defense saying that millions of dollars have been spent in pursuit of facts that don’t exist. And while Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) seems content to let these investigations run indefinitely, he’s resisting calls from even more conservative wings of his party to appoint a special committee in the House to seek out White House malfeasance.
As if to punctuate how the supposed scandal isn’t going away anytime soon, however, on Wednesday afternoon on the other side of the Capitol, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-AZ) will be holding a press conference. The subject? Why the media refuses to cover the Benghazi cover-up and demanding a joint committee investigate the Obama administration. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s at least the fifth such call for a committee.