House Benghazi Committee chairman Trey Gowdy appears to have given up his investigation into Benghazi. He won’t admit as much – just two days ago he insisted to reporters that “my interest is in the past, not the future. I’m trying to figure out what happened to four Americans in Benghazi.” That’s a noble statement of purpose, but it’s completely unconnected to what Gowdy is actually doing.
Gowdy made that statement after he and his committee had spent several hours interviewing longtime Hillary Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal about emails Blumenthal sent to the former Secretary of State after the attacks had taken place. Those messages contained “intelligence” that Blumenthal passed on from a source he knew in Libya, and Clinton forwarded them on to State Department officials for further inquiry and vetting (Blumenthal’s missives were often met with skepticism or thinly veiled derision).
What does that have to do the attack that claimed the lives of four Americans? It’s an excellent question, and reporters asked Gowdy specifically if he’d learned anything new about the attacks from talking to Blumenthal. His response: “I think all information you didn’t know previously is new.” Well, no one can argue with that bit of lawyerly weasel-speak. Asked again if he’d learned anything new about the attacks from speaking to Blumenthal, Gowdy shrugged his shoulders and said “we’ll let the transcript speak for itself, when and if it’s released.” Democrats on the committee are demanding that the transcript be released, but Gowdy won’t say whether that will happen.
Gowdy’s interest in Blumenthal doesn’t have anything to do with his knowledge of the Benghazi attacks – Blumenthal doesn’t appear to have any. But Blumenthal is close to Hillary Clinton, and Gowdy is turning the committee into a taxpayer-funded opposition research outfit now that Clinton is in the 2016 race for the presidency. He’s already said that the issue of Clinton’s email correspondence is “broader than Libya and broader than Benghazi,” and after the Blumenthal deposition he seemed more interested in making Clinton look bad than anything else:
Gowdy framed Clinton as irresponsible for welcoming and forwarding the Blumenthal memos since the government never vetted their author or the sources behind his information.
“You have an intelligence apparatus at your disposal. We have a CIA. Why would you not rely on your own vetted, sourced intelligence agency?” he said.
And according to Politico, the focus of the deposition was less about Benghazi than it was about “grilling” Blumenthal “about the inner workings of the Clinton’s philanthropic and political operations.” Apparently Gowdy was very concerned that Blumenthal had forwarded along to Clinton some blog posts from (my former employer) Media Matters about the Benghazi attacks – partly because they’d hurt the feelings of Gowdy’s Oversight Committee pal Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT):
One post in particular accused Chaffetz of “fundamental hypocrisy” after he admitted in a CNN interview that he had previously voted to cut embassy security funding.
Chaffetz chairs an oversight committee that previously examined the attacks but ceded jurisdiction late last year to the select committee, so he was not present for Tuesday’s hearing. But during the hearing, sources said Gowdy, who is close friends with Chaffetz, suggested Media Matters’s scrutiny bothered the Utah Republican.
This doesn’t really sound like someone who’s focused intently on figuring out why four Americans died in Benghazi. It sounds more like someone who’s trying to dig up embarrassing information about a political figure. Gowdy isn’t investigating Benghazi; he’s using Benghazi as his pretext to investigate Clinton.
Way back in May of last year, shortly after he was tapped as chair of the Benghazi committee, Gowdy said on “Morning Joe” that he would be investigating whether the White House politicized its response to the Benghazi attacks to “cast this administration in a light most favorable on the eve of an election.” Right now Gowdy is doing exactly what he suspected the administration of doing – he’s transformed the Benghazi inquiry into a political effort to make the likely Democratic candidate in 2016 look bad in the run-up to the election. And he’s cynically portraying this nakedly political enterprise as a key component of his search for the “truth” about why four Americans died.