5 Democrats named to Beng­hazi panel

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

De­spite not get­ting the Repub­li­can con­ces­sions she was seek­ing, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi ap­pointed a full slate of Democrats to the House’s new Beng­hazi in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee, giv­ing the ef­fort a bi­par­ti­san boost.

Mrs. Pelosi said she was ap­point­ing mem­bers in or­der to honor the fam­i­lies of the Amer­i­cans who died in the 2012 ter­ror­ist at­tack, and that Democrats will try to make sure the com­mit­tee steers clear of par­ti­san at­tacks. But she ac­knowl­edged her de­ci­sion has added le­git­i­macy to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I could have ar­gued this ei­ther way: ‘Why give any va­lid­ity to this ef­fort?’ But I do think it is im­por­tant for the Amer­i­can people to have the pur­suit of these ques­tions done in as fair and open and bal­anced way as pos­si­ble,” said Mrs. Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat. “That sim­ply would not be pos­si­ble leav­ing it to the Repub­li­cans.”

She tapped Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings of Mary­land, the rank­ing mem­ber on the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, to serve as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s top Demo­crat.

With the White House in the cross hairs, Pres­i­dent Obama’s press sec­re­tary said it had de­ferred to Mrs. Pelosi on whether to join the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But spokesman Jay Car­ney still took a shot at the panel Wed­nes­day.

“It is cer­tainly le­git­i­mate to sus­pect at least that this new pur­suit, this new in­ves­ti­ga­tion, by House Repub­li­cans into this mat­ter might not be di­vorced from pol­i­tics,” he said.

Mrs. Pelosi tried to wring con­ces­sions from House Speaker John A. Boehner, in­clud­ing equal mem­ber­ship and a say in what sub­poe­nas are is­sued, but he re­fused her re­quests.

Still, Mr. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said re­peat­edly that he doesn’t want the com­mit­tee to be­come a sideshow or a cir­cus. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Repub­li­can who will serve as chair­man, has pledged to con­duct an im­par­tial probe.

Mr. Gowdy wel­comed the Demo­cratic mem­bers Wed­nes­day.

“I re­spect Mr. Cum­mings and his work in Congress,” said Mr. Gowdy, who also serves on the over­sight com­mit­tee. “I look for­ward to work­ing with him and the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee to­ward an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a process wor­thy of the Amer­i­can people and the four brave Amer­i­cans who lost their lives in ser­vice to our coun­try.”

Mr. Cum­mings said he spoke with Mr. Gowdy on Tues­day and that Mr. Gowdy re­layed a sim­i­lar mes­sage: that he is hope­ful they can be in a po­si­tion where there can be fair­ness. The two were seen talk­ing just off the House floor late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Mr. Cum­mings has fre­quently sparred with Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell E. Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, re­gard­ing that panel’s probe into the at­tack.

The other Demo­cratic mem­bers of the in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee are Reps. Adam Smith of Wash­ing­ton, Adam B. Schiff and Linda T. Sanchez of Cal­i­for­nia, and Tammy Duck­worth of Illi­nois.

Mr. Smith is the rank­ing mem­ber on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and Mr. Schiff is a se­nior mem­ber of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence. Ms. Duck­worth, an Iraq War vet­eran, serves on the Armed Ser­vices and over­sight com­mit­tees, and Mrs. Sanchez, a se­nior Demo­cratic whip, is the rank­ing mem­ber on the Ethics Com­mit­tee and sits on the pow­er­ful Ways and Means Com­mit­tee.

“With their lead­er­ship and per­sis­tence, we will do right by the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Mr. Cum­mings said Repub­li­cans and Mr. Issa were “abu­sive” in their pre­vi­ous Beng­hazi probes and that he is tak­ing part in the lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause the fam­ily mem­bers of those killed in the at­tack have asked that the is­sue not be politi­cized.

The at­tack on the U.S. diplo­matic post in Beng­hazi, Libya, claimed the lives of four Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing U.S. Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens.

“So I feel I owe it to the fam­i­lies of Am­bas­sador Stevens and the other brave Amer­i­cans who lost their pre­cious lives to bring some min­i­mal level of bal­ance to this process and to check false claims wher­ever they may arise,” Mr. Cum­mings said.

Mr. Smith, though, cit­ing the nu­mer­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mat­ter and a re­port from the State Depart­ment, said the com­mit­tee never should have been formed.

“It is go­ing to hap­pen, so it is bet­ter that we par­tic­i­pate to at least try to bring some trans­parency, fair­ness and open­ness to the process,” he said. “It is, how­ever, re­gret­table that the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity has in­sisted on con­tin­u­ing this po­lit­i­cal witch hunt.”

Mr. Boehner was re­luc­tant to form the com­mit­tee as well but said the White House’s re­peated stonewalling of Congress on the mat­ter forced his own hand. Last month, the White House re­leased an email from a top na­tional se­cu­rity aide in which the aide ap­pears to coach staff on as­so­ci­at­ing the at­tack with an anti-Is­lam video, even though in­tel­li­gence sources at the time dis­missed the video’s con­nec­tion with the at­tack.

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