Beng­hazi con­spir­acy the­o­rists turn on Trey Gowdy

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— Et tu, Trey? A day af­ter the House Beng­hazi com­mit­tee re­leased a fi­nal re­port that left Hil­lary Clin­ton rel­a­tively un­scathed, con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists — the con­spir­a­cy­minded ones who pres­sured House lead­ers to ap­point the com­mit­tee in the first place — rounded on Chair­man Trey Gowdy for fail­ing to de­liver the goods.

“To say I was dis­ap­pointed would be an un­der­state­ment,” re­tired Adm. James “Ace” Lyons com­plained at a meet­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon of the Cit­i­zens’ Com­mis­sion on Beng­hazi, a coali­tion of far-right for­eign-pol­icy types. “Chair­man Gowdy is not a stenog­ra­pher. ... He was there to make find­ings and con­clu­sions. He had the in­for­ma­tion. He copped out, which

WASH­ING­TON

is con­sis­tent that we’ve seen with all our con­gres­sional lead­er­ship.”

Re­tired Gen. Thomas McIn­er­ney agreed that “the Amer­i­can peo­ple want to know from a group that spent al­most two years on it what the con­clu­sions are. That’s what we pay you for, Mr. Gowdy.”

Charles Woods, the fa­ther of Ty Woods, one of the four Amer­i­cans killed in Beng­hazi, lamented that “I re­ally don’t have clo­sure as far as who made the de­ci­sion not to res­cue.” And Roger Aronoff of Ac­cu­racy in Me­dia, which con­vened the Cit­i­zens’ Com­mis­sion at the Na­tional Press Club, com­plained that “they put a bunch of tran­scripts in there, interviews, but they didn’t weave it all to­gether.”

There were mur­murs of agree­ment from par­tic­i­pants when Lyons said of Gowdy: “Re­gret­fully, I don’t think he mea­sured up yes­ter­day.”

A woman in the crowd floated a new Beng­hazi con­spir­acy. “Has some­one in the GOP lead­er­ship got­ten their fin­gers in­volved in wa­ter­ing down some of this to ben­e­fit Sec­re­tary Clin­ton?” she asked.

No­body re­but­ted idea.

Herein lies a les­son for Repub­li­cans who are per­pet­u­ally try­ing to ap­pease the far right: It’s a fool’s er­rand. They went to the tea party — and now they’re tak­ing Don­ald Trump to the prom. Like­wise, then-House Speaker John Boehner named the Beng­hazi com­mit­tee be­cause ac­tivists were dis­sat­is­fied that seven pre­vi­ous con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions had failed to un­cover ma­jor scan­dal ma­te­rial. Now an eighth has pro­duced more of the same — and the ag­i­ta­tors are as ag­i­tated as ever.

Two GOP mem­bers of Gowdy’s own com­mit­tee were dis­sat­is­fied enough to write their own nar­ra­tive draw­ing more sweep­ing ac­cu­sa­tions against Clin­ton and President Obama. Gowdy must feel the need for some cover: A day af­ter this de­liv­er­ing what was sup­posed to be the de­fin­i­tive ac­count of Beng­hazi, his com­mit­tee called in an­other wit­ness for an in­ter­view. Democrats pointed out that the in­ter­vie­wee had just re­moved from his Face­book page the hash­tag #IfYouVoteForHil­laryYouAreBeyondS­tupid.

The Cit­i­zens’ Com­mis­sion on Beng­hazi, which held Wed­nes­day’s event, is not the most rep­utable out­let. It dropped “for­mer CIA of­fi­cer” Wayne Sim­mons as one of its 11 mem­bers af­ter the for­mer Fox News com­men­ta­tor, who it turns out had no mil­i­tary or in­tel­li­gence ex­pe­ri­ence, pleaded guilty to fraud charges this spring.

Even with­out Sim­mons’ cre­ativ­ity, the group man­aged to pro­duce a 73-page Beng­hazi re­port this week full of in­ven­tive ac­cu­sa­tions. They found “trou­bling evidence that Obama and Clin­ton were deeply and know­ingly in­volved in run­ning guns to al-Qaeda in Libya,” as well as “a clear case of of­fi­cial U.S. govern­ment sub­mis­sion to the Is­lamic Law on slan­der.”

They wrote that Clin­ton blocked U.S. mil­i­tary forces from at­tempt­ing a res­cue mis­sion, and they at­trib­uted the de­ci­sion to oust Libya’s Moam­mar Gaddafi in part to fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests of the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion.

They judged that Obama — one speaker re­ferred to him as “Barack Hus­sein Soe­toro Obama” — had “an ide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ment” to ex­pand­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. They even gave long­time Clin­ton con­fi­dant Sid­ney Blu­men­thal credit for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “sup­port for the Libyan Mus­lim Brother­hoo­dled al Qaeda mili­tias.” In one elab­o­rate the­ory, they tied those guard­ing the U.S. fa­cil­i­ties in Beng­hazi both to Blu­men­thal and to the wife of a for­mer chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

They even faulted Am­bas­sador Chris Stevens, who died in Beng­hazi, say­ing he “rather ro­man­ti­cized the Libyan ji­hadis.”

“We see a field of smok­ing guns,” Aronoff said.

Clearly. But the Beng­hazi com­mit­tee didn’t. Gowdy “no­tably re­frained from as­sign­ing blame or de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity,” Clare Lopez, of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy and an ad­viser to the Ted Cruz pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, told the gath­er­ing. “He also did not draw a con­nec­tion be­tween the dots.” Why? “I think he had his rea­sons — po­lit­i­cal,” McIn­er­ney said. He spec­u­lated that con­gres­sional lead­er­ship had ap­proved “black op­er­a­tions” to run weapons from Beng­hazi to Is­lamic State forces in Syria. “That’s the dirty lit­tle se­cret that no­body wants out,” he said.

Aha! So Gowdy him­self is in on the Beng­hazi con­spir­acy.

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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