Benghazi panel has lasted longer than Church Committee

Benghazi panel has lasted longer than Church Committee

The House’s special panel to investigate the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, has been running for 469 days as of Thursday, making it officially longer than the Church Committee that overhauled federal oversight of American spy agencies.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCummings asks prosecutors about decision not to charge Trump in hush money probe DHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' Cummings tears into DHS chief for conditions at migrant border facilities MORE (Md.), used the milestone to further accuse Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) of running a politically motivated smear campaign against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

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“House Republicans established the Select Committee on Benghazi more than a year and three months ago with a blank check, no time limits, and no rules, and they have now spent the more than $4 million in taxpayer funds,” Cummings said in a statement on Thursday.

“This investigation is not about learning pertinent facts about Benghazi or improving the security of our embassies,” he added. “It is about spending taxpayer funds on political attacks against [former State Department] Secretary Clinton.”

A spokesperson for the committee’s Republican majority, meanwhile, attributed the length of the investigation to foot-dragging by the State Department.

"As the chairman has said many, many times, the sooner the State Department and other executive branch agencies produce responsive documents, the sooner we can finish,” the spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. “As he has also said many times, he welcomes any assistance Ranking Member Cummings would provide in helping to encourage the agencies to improve their rate of compliance."

The Select Committee on Benghazi was created by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last year, with the goal of probing whether federal officials erred in responding to threats on the diplomatic compound in the Libyan city. In 2012, four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in an attack on that facility that was later blamed on Islamic militants.

Boehner has touted that the Benghazi panel revealed Clinton’s use of a personal email system run through a server based in her own house — a revelation that has become a growing political quagmire for the presidential candidate.  

Though Democrats have dismissed the Benghazi committee as partisan, Republicans insist that they are following the facts. Their investigation is not constrained to the few hours when Americans in Libya were under siege, they have maintained.

Passions about the committee’s work are likely to run high this fall, as Clinton prepares to testify in an open session of the panel on Oct. 22.

The 11-member Church Committee — so named after its chairman, former Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) — was created in 1975, in the wake of discoveries about the CIA’s meddling in foreign politics and monitoring of American citizens. The panel's work resulted in the creation of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, which function as overseers of the nation’s multiple federal intelligence services.  

— This story was updated at 3:17 p.m.