National Security

Benghazi panel aide expressed support for Pentagon actions

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Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi released statements from the panel’s former top lawyer on Monday appearing to undercut the arguments of Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

According to Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Gowdy ignored the support his former chief counsel expressed for the Pentagon’s actions during the 2012 terror attack on U.S. facilities in Libya.

{mosads}Instead, they claimed, he has pestered the Defense Department with “unwarranted, unreasonably and unjustified” demands in a late bid to dig up dirt on the Obama administration.

“Your accusations that the Defense Department is politicizing this investigation are completely baseless, do a disservice to our service members and appear calculated to deflect attention from the fact that Republicans have dragged this investigation deep into an election year,” Cummings and Smith wrote in a letter to Gowdy on Monday.

Cummings is the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel. Fellow member Smith is also the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Their letter on Monday comes amid the latest flurry of finger-pointing on the hotly partisan Benghazi panel following complaints from the Defense Department.

Last month, the department’s top Capitol Hill liaison suggested that the committee was wasting taxpayer dollars and overwhelming the Pentagon with “multiple and changing requests.”

The unusually disparaging letter bristled Republicans, who accused the Defense Department of taking sides in a partisan fight.

But according to the panel’s Democrats, Gowdy has ignored comments from retired Army Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, who was chief counsel for Republicans until last January.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this January, according to the Democrats’ letter. “I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations made and the decisions you directed.”

“Nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi,” he added during an interview with another former Pentagon aide, Jeremy Bash.

The move by Democrats is likely to infuriate Republicans, who have objected to efforts to release portions of the panel’s interviews. Earlier this year, committee Republicans changed the panel’s rules to limit Democrats’ access to the transcripts, claiming they could not be trusted not to selectively leak sections to the media.

Gowdy’s office has defended his efforts to chase down all possible leads related to the 2012 terror attacks, which left four Americans dead. That has included efforts to reach a caller to Sean Hannity’s radio show and a commenter on Facebook.

“Democrats’ false attacks on legitimate congressional oversight are proof they’re nervous about the new information committee investigators have uncovered,” Gowdy spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement.

“No matter how many dishonest letters Democrats waste time writing, Republicans will continue conducting a thorough, fact-centered investigation that includes all relevant witnesses, regardless of rank.”

On Monday, Chipman agreed with the strategy.

“If some witnesses refer the committee to other witnesses, the responsible thing to do is interview them,” he said in a statement. “The committee has an obligation to the American people to determine what can and cannot be substantiated, so if an individual makes public allegations about Benghazi, the committee should interview that person.”

The Benghazi panel is nearing the final stages of its two-year analysis of the terror attack and is expected to release its review this summer.

Updated at 9:46 a.m.

Tags Adam Smith Trey Gowdy United States House Select Committee on Benghazi

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