Greg Nash

A top Democrat on the House committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, says the panel has run its course and needs to be disbanded.

The Select Committee on Benghazi has become “little more than a partisan tool to influence the presidential race,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Friday.

{mosads}In doing so, the panel has set “a dangerous precedent that will haunt Congress for decades,” he warned.

“Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president,” he added.

“Do we really want to see future select committees ginned up to attack other likely presidential nominees?”

Schiff, who is also the top Democrat on the powerful House Intelligence Committee, has previously criticized the makeup of the Benghazi Committee. Like other Democrats who were skeptical of the probe from the start, he has alleged that its GOP leaders are interested in little more than gathering material for political attacks against Clinton, who was secretary of State when four Americans were killed in the eastern Libyan city in 2012, and is now the Democratic front-runner for president.

In response to Friday’s op-ed, a spokesman for committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) issued a blistering statement accusing Schiff of attending just one of the more than 45 interviews the committee has conducted.
 
“If Mr. Schiff truly cared about Benghazi and getting to the truth and contributing to the final, definitive accounting of what happened before, during and after the Benghazi terrorist attack, he would not sit on the outside casting stones and titling at Democrat strawmen,” Jamal Ware said. “He would actually show up and help guide the direction of the investigation.”
 
“The committee continues to uncover important new facts, including facts discovered yesterday we have not disclosed,” Ware added.

“Mr. Schiff would know that himself, if he actually showed up for committee business for a change instead of spending his time writing op-eds about things for which he was not present.”

The back-and-forth continued later in the day, underscoring the simmering partisan tensions on the panel. 

Top committee Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) criticized Ware’s statement as “bizarre, highly defensive, and erratic,” and questioned his role as Gowdy’s spokesman.

“I do not know if Chairman Gowdy approved his press staffer’s statement, but it attacked members of Congress in a direct and offensive manner that I have never seen before,” Cummings added. “If the chairman did not approve it, he may want to consider whether this individual is the appropriate person to represent the Benghazi Committee to the press and the American people.

“If the chairman did approve the statement, perhaps he should consider making those claims himself rather than allowing his press staffer to engage in activities that are not befitting the House of Representatives.”

The Benghazi committee has already run longer than the Church Committee and other special panels chosen to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal and other incidents. Soon, it will exceed even the congressional probe into the Watergate scandal, making it the longest investigation ever launched by Congress. 

In the process, the panel has spent more than $4 million of taxpayers’ money, critics allege, without any apparent progress to ensure that similar violence does not happen again.

The investigation did bring to light the fact that Clinton used a personal email address and private server to conduct State Department business while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.

Friday’s op-ed came as the Benghazi panel brought two of Clinton’s former top aides at the State Department in for depositions.

Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, appeared for nine hours on Thursday. On Friday, current campaign aide Jake Sullivan appears primed for a similar marathon session. 

— This story was last updated at 5:33 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Benghazi
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