Benghazi panel protests continued ‘stonewalling’ from State Dept.

Benghazi panel protests continued ‘stonewalling’ from State Dept.
© Anne Wernikoff

Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are protesting the State Department’s “stonewalling” as they seek to finalize a long-awaited report about the 2012 terrorist attacks.

Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday accused the Obama administration of purposefully deceiving his panel.

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“Whatever the administration is hiding, its justifications for doing so are imaginary and appear to be invented for the sake of convenience,” Gowdy said in a statement. “That’s not how complying with a congressional subpoena works, and it's well past time the department stops stonewalling.”

The committee has for more than a year sought to obtain a handful of records from the department but has so far come up empty. Among the documents it is trying to obtain are emails from senior aides to former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates MORE as well as some of Clinton’s emails and additional records from an Accountability Review Board analysis of the Benghazi attacks.

In addition, Politico reported on Sunday that the White House has rebuffed the committee’s efforts to answer questions about President Obama’s activities the night of the Sept 11, 2012, assault. 

The Obama administration has chalked up much of its refusal to respond to separation of powers and a desire to avoid granting a congressional committee unlimited ability to demand information from senior administration leaders.

“It is standard at the end of investigations for the executive branch and Congress to work to find accommodation on documents that implicate longstanding confidentiality interests,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement on Monday.

“We engaged with the committee extensively on this topic,” he added, claiming that lawmakers did not respond to an offer to review documents, following meetings with Gowdy and his staffers.

“As we have consistently made clear, the documents in question are not material to the security of, or attacks on, our facilities in Benghazi,” Toner said.

To its critics, however, the episode is likely to reek of obstruction from a Democratic administration that has viewed the committee’s work as unnecessary. Democrats have protested the committee’s investigation for most of the two years of its existence because of what they say is overt partisanship targeting Clinton, their party's presumptive presidential nominee.

The panel originally scheduled to release the report by the beginning of summer, but that June 20 date slipped by without publication of what is expected to be a lengthy document.

Many suspect that it will be released in the next few weeks, before the party nominating conventions in mid-July.

Gowdy has suggested that he will release the report even if information is outstanding, in order to put the matter to bed before the politics of the presidential election become too toxic.

--This report was updated at 12:05 p.m.