Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came under increased pressure Thursday to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack.
A day after three State Department whistle-blowers criticized the administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested the Speaker risked becoming “complicit” in a cover-up if he doesn't create a special panel.
Separately, two senators renewed their calls for a special committee following Wednesday’s six-hour House hearing.
“There's an increasing argument for a select committee since the testimony yesterday obviously affected the jurisdiction of more than one committee,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services panels. “We need a full accounting, which can only come through a select committee in my view.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill he has personally urged Boehner to create the panel.
“I've raised it to him, I've talked to him. It's his decision to make, but we're making a big mistake by not doing a select committee,” Graham said Thursday. “We've communicated a lot, but we should probably do more in light of the building momentum in the House.”
Wolf's resolution to create the panel now has 139 co-sponsors — almost 60 percent of the House Republican Conference — creating intense pressure on Boehner to agree to the special panel. The speaker reiterated Thursday that he has “confidence” in the five committees of jurisdiction that are currently investigating the Benghazi attack.
During Wednesday’s House hearing, three officials with direct knowledge of the events on the ground last Sept. 11 testified that the Obama administration could have done more to help the diplomats under attack and that an internal investigation shielded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top State Department officials from blame. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.
McCain said the testimony has put new focus on Clinton's role and her comments in January before Congress defending the department's initial depiction of the attack as a peaceful protest gone awry.
In January, Clinton told a Senate panel “what difference does it make” in discussing whether a violent protest or terrorism had led to the Benghazi attack.
“I said at the time, that's not an appropriate response to say, 'who cares?' We do care,” McCain said Thursday. “And that was I believe a major mistake on her part.” Asked about the possible impact on a potential presidential bid by Clinton in 2016, he said, “I don't know what the shelf life of these things is, but it certainly won't be viewed as a high point.”
Graham agreed with McCain that Wednesday's hearing strengthened the case for a special committee.
“I think you need a select committee because compartmentalizing the story of Benghazi has hurt getting to the truth and it is a very inefficient way,” Graham said. “Every time you've had sort of a national security disaster, like Iran-Contra or Watergate or a big thing like that, everybody pooled their resources and you could ask the same questions and you don't have that compartmentalized approach.”
In his letter, Wolf said Benghazi risked getting “lost in the shuffle” of the regular committees' other priorities. He said regular order “cannot sustain or bring to fruition” the investigation.
Wednesday's hearing “made clear that a thorough inquiry will require witnesses from across government — including the Defense Department, State Department, Intelligence Community, Justice Department and even the White House,” Wolf wrote. “Only a Select Committee would be able to bring the cross-jurisdictional expertise and subpoena authority to compel answers from these agencies.”