News Column

Benghazi Panel to Take it Slow

July 7, 2014

By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

Two months after the House of Representatives chartered a new committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks, the panel will begin getting down to work in July, Chairman Trey Gowdy said, but it will not be in a hurry to make headlines.

"We live in a society and a culture that likes to move pretty quickly, so I'm sure that there are some out there whose expectations for speed are not matching the reality," the South Carolina Republican told USA TODAY. "It is tough to get a committee from not existing to up to running at the legal speed limit."

The panel has set up a website and hired nearly half of the roughly 30 staffers expected to assist the investigation.

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, was tapped by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in early May to take over the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Republicans have charged the Obama administration with obfuscating events surrounding the attack to protect the president's 2012 re-election prospects and former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's potential 2016 campaign.

Democrats counter that the attack was a tragedy, not a conspiracy, and that Republicans are using it to appease the party's conservative base.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Democrats still view the investigation as a political ploy and that Republicans are "desperately seeking to give off some aura of activity in Congress."

Gowdy is keenly sensitive to that criticism. "There is this notion out there, as some of my colleagues have said, that this will be a circus, a kangaroo court. No one who values their professional reputation wants to be part of that," he said.

Gowdy said he is trying to hire investigators with no political agenda and reach out to the panel's ranking member, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to ensure that the minority has a role in the investigation. House Democrats reluctantly agreed to participate in the 12-member investigative panel.

"I have a great working relationship with Chairman Gowdy, and I am hopeful that this will be the serious, neutral fact-finding investigation that he has promised," Cummings said in a statement to USA TODAY.

The committee will issue a final report whenever it deems the investigation complete. "I have no way of predicting how long it will take," Gowdy said.

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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