Dems: Benghazi panel has 'abandoned' its work to focus on Hillary

Dems: Benghazi panel has 'abandoned' its work to focus on Hillary
© Greg Nash

Democrats serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi say the panel’s GOP chairman has “abandoned” plans for hearings to shift the focus of the investigation to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' MORE.

“At the beginning of this year, Select Committee Republicans provided Democrats with detailed information about their plans to hold 11 hearings between January and October on a wide range of topics relating to the Benghazi attacks,” the panel’s five Democrats wrote Wednesday in a letter to chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE (R-S.C.).

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“Since then, however, Republicans have completely abandoned this plan — holding no hearings at all since January and instead focusing on former Secretary Hillary Clinton,” they added.

The missive gives an outline of the hearings the panel was supposed to convene, including: one in April with former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta to examine why the U.S. had an outpost in Benghazi, Libya; another in May with Clinton to discuss the same topic; another in July with former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice; and finally one in October to hammer out specific oversight recommendations to help prevent a similar attack from happening in the future.

Gowdy and panel Republicans have maintained that the probe into the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans cannot move forward until the State Department hands over all emails from Clinton's top aides.

They have also argued that Clinton should give the private email server she used while in office — which the presidential contender's attorney says has been wiped clean of data — to a third-party to determine if any information can be recovered.

Democrats are upset that no work on the panel has been completed recently.

“The Select Committee has not only postponed its hearings with Secretary Clinton and other State Department witnesses, but it has abandoned all of its other hearings as well, including those examining other agencies like the Department of Defense and the CIA,” according to Democrats.

They say the Republican-controlled panel “has not conducted a transcribed interview or deposition of even a single Defense Department employee” and waited until April before sending a document request to the CIA.

“In the past, Republicans have attempted to blame the Select Committee’s glacial pace on Secretary Clinton and the State Department.  But it seems difficult to understand how they could be responsible for the Select Committee abandoning every single hearing it had planned to hold since January,” Democrats said.

“It appears that much of the Select Committee’s work has been shelved while Republicans pursue every possible avenue of political attack against Secretary Clinton,” they added.

Democrats said the actions by the select committee, “which lack any legitimate basis — serve only to delay its work further into the election season and subject it to increasingly widespread criticism for its highly partisan actions.”

GOP spokesman Jamal Ware refuted the charges, saying the select committee has conducted more than 30 transcribed interviews.

"These initial witness interviews centered on State Department and CIA witnesses because they were the eyewitnesses to the attacks and many have never before been interviewed by any committee of Congress," he said in a statement.

Ware said the panel would schedule interviews with officials from all agencies that may have knowledge of the attack.

"These interviews are dependent, in part, on outstanding requests for documents, which have not been complied with," he noted.

He said the panel has focused on Clinton recently "to try to recover relevant portions of what should have been her public record, we would not be here today had Clinton decided the right thing instead of the ‘convenient’ thing to do was to use the official State Department system," according to Ware, who touted the fact that the private server was discovered by the panel.

If Democrats "insist on continuing to write, hopefully next time it will include what they are doing to bring an end to State Department stonewalling and to help the majority enforce subpoenas that have been outstanding for months," he added.

--This report was updated at 1:23 p.m.

Read letter to Benghazi panel chairman