Benghazi Investigation Produces More Infighting and Few Results

The Special House Benghazi committee is still squabbling over its investigation.

May 16, 2016, 11:19 AM

— -- Two years after a special House committee started investigating the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the committee has yet to produce a report on its findings. But the political infighting is still going strong.

On Sunday Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, sent a scathing letter to the committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, complaining of “repeated, unnecessary, and ever-changing demands from the Department of Defense.” Cummings accused Republicans of ignoring statements from their own chief counsel, Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, a retired 3-star general, who appears to think the U.S. military response on the night of the attack was appropriate.

Gowdy is seeking a number of witnesses from the Defense Department who he feels may offer new testimony about the U.S. military's actions on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, which left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

Those witnesses include “John from Iowa,” a caller into a conservative talk radio show who claimed to be a drone pilot as well as an alleged aircraft mechanic who posted on Facebook that he had knowledge of a viable attack plan. Gowdy has previously dismissed complaints from the Defense Department about these requests, accusing its leadership of being “overtly partisan.”

Cummings claims in his letter that Chipman, Gowdy’s own chief counsel on the committee, agrees with the finding of numerous investigations that predate the committee, which found that given the constraints of time and distance, the military could not have responded effectively.

The letter quotes a committee interview between Chipman and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in January of this year.

“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,” Chipman said, according to the letter. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Chipman said today that the committee should interview any individual who could contribute to the investigation.

“I agree with Chairman Gowdy," Chipman said. "The committee has an obligation to the American people to determine what can and cannot be substantiated, so if an individual makes public allegations about Benghazi, the committee should interview that person.”

The letter goes on cite criticism from various right-leaning journalists of the committee’s 11-hour interrogation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October of last year. It even quotes the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who at the time called the hearing a “total disaster” that “was not good for Republicans and for the country.”

Committee spokesperson Matt Wolking pushed back, accusing Democrats of playing politics.

“No matter how many dishonest letters Democrats waste time writing, Republicans will continue conducting a thorough, fact-centered investigation that includes all relevant witnesses, regardless of rank," Wolking said in a statement to ABC News. "Democrats’ false attacks on legitimate congressional oversight are proof they’re nervous about the new information committee investigators have uncovered.”

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