Trey Gowdy's tough week: The farcical Benghazi committee keeps bumbling along

The Benghazi committee Republicans have spent the past few days busily undermining their own investigation

Published May 19, 2016 5:05PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

It’s been a rough week for Trey Gowdy and his crew of Benghazi truth hounds. He and the other Republicans on the House Benghazi committee have been spending their time digging into conspiratorial allegations that military resources were withheld or left idle in response to the 2012 terrorist attack. But, on Monday, Gowdy’s Democratic colleagues released selected transcripts showing the former chief counsel for the committee Republicans, retired Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, shooting down those allegations and commending the military for its actions in response to the attacks. It undermined the entire conservative Benghazi conspiracy, and kicked yet another plank out from the committee’s already shaky support structure.

Gowdy gamely made an effort to minimize the damage, but in the process he only managed to make things worse. The chairman went on Fox News to respond to the reports surrounding his former counsel, and he confirmed what Chipman said in the transcripts released by the Democrats.

“Whether or not they [the military] could have gotten there in time – I don’t think there’s any issue with respect to that. They couldn’t,” Gowdy said. But, in an effort to justify his committee’s continued efforts, he argued that important context had been omitted from Chipman’s remarks. “The next question,” Gowdy explained, “is why could you [the military] not? Why were you not positioned to do it?” That’s the critical question, Gowdy insisted: why the military wasn’t prepared to respond to a Benghazi-like attack.

Well, guess what? That question has been asked and answered already.

The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks drilled down pretty hard on this question. It was highly critical of the Obama administration’s posture prior to the attacks and specifically faulted White House officials who “failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya and the growing threat to U.S. interests in the region.” It found that State Department personnel in the country were left vulnerable because, in part, “the administration did not direct a change in military force posture.” It’s a scathing assessment of the administration’s preparedness leading up to September 11, 2012, and President Obama himself has acknowledged that errors were made in the run-up to the attacks. “In the aftermath, what became clear was that the security was lax,” Obama said on Fox News in 2014, “that not all the precautions and -- that needed to be taken were taken and both myself and Secretary Clinton and others indicated as much.”

Gowdy obviously believes there’s something new and revealing to be learned, so one would think he would have prioritized interviews with high-ranking military personnel who could provide details regarding the Defense Department’s pre-Benghazi strategic assessments and planning. But that, apparently, is not the case.

Here’s what The New York Times reported Thursday morning:

Gen. Carter F. Ham, who led the United States Africa Command on the night of the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, has been interviewed at least nine times by investigators scrutinizing the events in 2012 that led to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

But more than two years after House Republicans created the Select Committee on Benghazi, General Ham has yet to appear before that panel. He was finally supposed to do so on Thursday, but Republicans suddenly postponed the session until June 8, citing scheduling conflicts.

So when Gowdy and the Benghazi committee aren’t (reluctantly) confirming information we already knew was accurate, they’re dragging their feet in conducting interviews of key personnel who can provide answers to questions that seem to have been asked several times already. Kind of leaves you wondering what, exactly, they’re doing over there.

By Simon Maloy

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