Benghazi panel now longer than Watergate probe

Benghazi panel now longer than Watergate probe
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The House’s committee investigating the 2012 terror attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, has run longer than the 1970s effort to investigate the Watergate scandal.

As of Monday, the committee has been in existence for a total of 72 weeks.

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Democrats originally claimed that in surpassing the Watergate Committee, the Benghazi probe became the longest-running special committee tasked with investigating a specific topic. The duration of the committee has been a frequent talking point for Democrats, who have accused it of being a massive waste of taxpayer money with little to show.

“It's the longest running congressional investigation ever,” a Twitter account associated with Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: 'Why no action' from Obama on Russian meddling? Trump notes 'election meddling by Russia' in tweet criticizing Obama Former Obama advisor calls Fox ‘state sanctioned media’ MORE tweeted this week. 

“It's cost taxpayers $4 million. And what's it about?”

However, Politifact noted four separate committees that have ran for longer before their investigations were officially closed.   

The House Select Committee on Assassinations, for instance, ran for 30 months from 1976 to 1979 — nearly double the duration of the Benghazi Committee. That panel was established to investigate the killings of late President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  

The Senate’s Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program ran for a total of 90 months during World War II, Politifact noted.

Monday’s milestone was bemoaned by Democrats, who have long chided the panel as a purely political exercise intent on doing little more than dragging down Clinton.

Rep Elijah Cummings (Md.), the panel’s top Democrat, said that the committee had become “a political punchline... at the expense of being taken seriously and being able to take effective, bipartisan actions to improve the security of our diplomats abroad.”

Republicans, meanwhile, pointed the blame squarely at the Obama administration. If Clinton and other current and former officials had merely responded to their requests in a timely manner, they say, the investigation would have ended long ago.

House Democrats “are right back where they have always been—complaining about process and procedure rather than lifting a finger to help complete the task,” committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in an emailed statement.

“Maybe if committee Democrats had sent one request to the executive branch, or signed onto a letter, instead of running a rearguard action for the Clinton campaign, perhaps the administration would have hastened its cooperation,” he added.

“Instead, the Democrats do what they always do, issue a press release citing some arbitrary milestone and claiming some Democrat strawman has not been proven.”

The Benghazi panel shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

In fact, the intensity is only likely to mount in the weeks leading up to Oct. 22, when Clinton is scheduled to testify in an open hearing, an occasion likely to be marked by fireworks on Capitol Hill.

Last week, the State Department acknowledged that it had discovered “a small number” of Clinton’s emails that related to the 2012 violence in Libya that it had failed to give to the committee earlier in the year. Those emails will be headed to the Benghazi panel as part of a broader set of 925 emails about the attack. 

Meanwhile, House Republicans announced this weekend that they are launching a new special committee to investigate controversial videos about Planned Parenthood. 

Democrats criticized the newest panel as part of a similar politicization of major issues in Congress.

“The proliferation of unnecessary special committees to score political points sets a dangerous precedent that both parties will come to regret in the years to come,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffSunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up Merkley: Trump 'absolutely' tried to intimidate Comey White House refers House panel to Trump's tweets about Comey 'tapes' MORE (D-Calif.) — a member of the Benghazi panel who has called for it to be dismantled — said in a statement on Monday. 

 

— An earlier version of this story incorrectly claimed that the Select Committee on Benghazi was Congress's longest ever special investigation committee.