By Julian Pecquet - 09/17/13 12:02 AM EDT
Democrats and Republicans are trading accusations of crass political opportunism as the House rekindles its investigation into the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) leaked a report over the weekend taking aim at the State Department’s independent probe. The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), responded with his own list of the “Top Ten Unfounded Allegations on Benghazi.”
The new set of hearings are set to take place as Republican leaders are facing intense pressure from members of the GOP Conference to show their investigation is bearing fruit.
Legislation from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) creating a select committee with special powers to investigate Benghazi has garnered 173 rank-and-file Republican co-sponsors — including 10 over the past seven days.
Issa’s committee will hear from family members of the Americans killed in Benghazi as well as from the co-authors of the State Department’s independent audit on Thursday.
His panel’s latest report slams the State Department’s independent investigation and accuses the department of obstructing his panel’s probe.
State Department officials routinely refused requests for documents on its investigation into the attack on the U.S. mission, including interview transcripts and summaries of eyewitnesses to the attack, the report said.
The report went on to accuse members of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) tasked with reviewing the events that led up to the attack as being rife with “actual and perceived conflicts of interest.”
Cummings responded scathingly on Monday.
“This Republican report is not an official Committee report, but rather a completely partisan staff report that the Chairman apparently didn’t want Committee Members to see before he leaked it to the press,” Cummings said in a statement.
“Rather than focusing on the reforms recommended by the ARB, Republicans have politicized the investigation by engaging in a systematic effort to launch unsubstantiated accusations against the Pentagon, the State Department, the President, and now the ARB itself.”
Cummings released a list of what he called 10 examples of Benghazi "fiction". They include allegations that the administration could have sent assets to protect Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the others when they came under attack, that special forces were ordered to “stand down” and that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed off on the decision to reduce security at the post despite the worsening environment.
The House Foreign Relations Committee is also holding a hearing on Wednesday.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy can expect pointed questions about the department’s decision last month to reassign — but not fire — four State Department officials who were singled out by the ARB.
And the House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the Defense Department’s posture the day of the attack.
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