The House Select Committee on Benghazi has gone through its share of indignities over the past few weeks. Its claims to fairness and impartiality were sullied by wild-eyed and overly ambitious partisan actors in Congress, its credibility has been undermined by a disgruntled whistleblower, and press examinations of the committee’s activities showed it to be slow-moving and predominantly political in nature. The long-running investigation is struggling to deal with the one thing it had hoped to avoid: scrutiny. But there’s one casualty of the Benghazi committee’s political reckoning that, until now, had gone unnoticed: chairman Trey Gowdy’s feelings.
In an interview with Politico, Gowdy explained how the attacks on his committee are very hurtful to him personally, given the seriousness with which he’s approached his duties as chairman:
“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life,” Gowdy said this weekend during a lengthy interview with POLITICO. “Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically — at least it is for me.”
Gowdy believes the criticism has been demonstrably unfair — an attempt to “delegitimize” his panel and discredit his personal reputation ahead of Clinton’s high stakes testimony on Thursday.
“It’s not lost on me that the uptick in criticism is [happening] the two weeks before she’s coming,” he says. “I don’t think that that is a coincidence; it’s an attempt to marginalize and impugn the credibility of the panel that’s going to be asking her questions.”
I’m sure Gowdy does feel frustrated and demoralized, but really he has only himself and his party to blame. Gowdy’s implication that the “uptick” in attacks on the committee’s credibility ahead of Hillary Clinton’s testimony are part of a Democratic smear campaign might carry more weight if the flashpoint for all this criticism hadn’t been provided by the Republican House majority leader. In this fight, Gowdy’s worst enemies have been the members of own party, which is why he was on TV this weekend telling with his Republican colleagues to “shut up” about the Benghazi committee, given that they keep opening their mouths and undermining his credibility.
Speaking of Gowdy’s credibility, he’s done himself no favors of late. Just last week he sent a letter to the Democratic minority defending the committee’s work and suggesting that Clinton had knowingly trafficked in classified information over email and may have even helped to out a CIA intelligence source. Turns out the email in question didn’t contain any information the CIA considered classified. Just a couple of days earlier, the Huffington Post reported that Gowdy has a habit of skipping witness interviews unless the interviewee in question is “directly connected” to Hillary Clinton.
But to read the Politico article, you get the sense that Gowdy is a beleaguered champion of truth and integrity whose noble intentions are under assault from pernicious outside forces. “Gowdy worked behind closed doors for 18 months in an effort to keep the committee’s work out of the political fray,” wrote reporter Rachel Bade, which is strange given that the editors and reporters at Politico know this isn’t true.
After all, Gowdy’s committee has been leaking information about Hillary Clinton and her emails consistently for the past several months – including to Politico. Here’s a Politico article from last month (written by the same reporter) that cites a Republican source leaking details about Clinton aide Cheryl Mills’ testimony to the Benghazi committee to argue that the independence of the State Department’s internal Benghazi investigation had been compromised. Gowdy himself has tacitly acknowledged the leaks emanating from his investigation, and in one instance even tried to explain away an inaccurate leak – once again, to Politico – by blaming Hillary for the “editing and self-selection” that caused the leaker to be “confused” about which emails he/she was leaking.
Gowdy and the Benghazi committee have not been “out of the political fray” – they’ve been quietly contributing to the “fray” while trying to maintain some semblance of impartiality. Thanks in large part to the chaos within the Republican leadership, the committee can no longer keep up this illusion of detached nonpartisanship. Gowdy may be very sad about this, but it’s only because he got caught.