House Democrats to participate in Benghazi probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats will participate in the special, Republican-led committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, despite serious concerns within the party that the inquiry is an election-year ploy to energize core Republican voters.
In a brief statement, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she will appoint the full complement of five Democrats on the 12-member panel, tapping lawmakers who have been deeply involved in previous congressional investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012 assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the attack when militants stormed the mission.
Democrats have been divided over whether to boycott the investigation, the eighth such probe. Some Democrats have called the new inquiry a political sham designed to embarrass the Obama administration and rough up former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. )Other Democrats have maintained they must participate to ensure thy have a role in questioning witnesses. t
The Benghazi attack has become a conservative rallying cry, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about the nature of the attack during the 2012 presidential election campaign when President Barack Obama was running for a second term and then stonewalling congressional investigators.
The Democrats who will join seven Republicans are Reps. Elijah Cummings, the top member of his party on the Oversight committee; Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel; Adam Schiff, a member of the Intelligence committee; Linda Sanchez, who is on Ways and Means’ oversight subcommittee, and Tammy Duckworth, who serves on Armed Services.
Cummings will serve as the top Democrat on the committee. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, had selected Rep. Trey Gowdy, a seasoned Republican prosecutor, to be the panel’s chairman.
Pelosi and Boehner met for an hour on Tuesday, and she held subsequent meetings with Democratic leaders. Her staff and aides to Boehner discussed the parameters of the investigation.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney wouldn’t comment on Pelosi’s decision, but said there was reason to suspect the House Republicans’ investigation “might not be divorced from politics.”
The special investigation means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the November elections, with Republicans likely to target current and former administration officials. Almost certain to be called to testify is Clinton.
The panel is authorized to work through the end of the year, past the elections, when the Republicans hope to win control of the Senate and tighten its majority grip on the House.
In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan and Republican-led probes have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has been arrested.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.