Gowdy’s office denies retirement

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Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyBenghazi Committee demands interview with DOD official Benghazi panel finds, interviews ‘John from Iowa’ drone operator Benghazi chairman: Dems get to review, offer edits to report MORE's office said he's not leaving Congress next year, despite comments at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that left many colleagues with the impression he was calling it quits.

The South Carolina Republican stood up in the room and gave an emotional speech, telling his colleagues he loved them all but that he would not be a candidate for leadership. Instead, Gowdy said he's staying focused on leading the committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.

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“When I’m done with that, I’m going to return to South Carolina where my heart is,” Gowdy told his colleagues, according to a source in the room.

Many GOP lawmakers poured out of the Capitol meeting room, believing that Gowdy had just announced his retirement from Congress. In fact, Rep. John FlemingJohn FlemingHHS chief meets with House Republicans on abortion dispute Admin. rejects complaint that California broke abortion law The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-La.) said on C-SPAN Wednesday morning that Gowdy told members he planned to retire.

“Trey wants to go back to South Carolina, and God bless him for that,” Fleming said on the program.

But others, including Rep. Roger WilliamsRoger WilliamsGOP bill targets CFPB regulatory powers Small Business Week: celebrate business owners, don't break them GOP campaign chief: We won’t lose the House MORE (R-Texas), who was sitting in the first row at the meeting, said he did not interpret Gowdy's remarks as a farewell speech.

Asked if Gowdy was retiring from Congress, his spokeswoman Amanda Duvall, said, “No, he is not announcing anything regarding 2016.”

Gowdy has made no secret for his distaste for Washington, and the former federal prosecutor is believed to be eyeing a federal judgeship or the governor's office back home.