Dems release parallel Benghazi report ahead of GOP

Dems release parallel Benghazi report ahead of GOP
© Anne Wernikoff

Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi released their rebuttal to the Republican-led committee’s argument on Monday, before the GOP leaders published their own report.

The 339-page Democratic report aims to refute allegations expected to be made by Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches House GOP set to grill Comey MORE (R-S.C.) in what they have long claimed is a partisan witch hunt.

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“We are issuing our own report today because, after spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, it is long past time for the select committee to conclude its work,” Democrats said.

In addition to releasing their own analysis, Democratic lawmakers released the transcripts of dozens of interviews with officials from the State Department, Pentagon, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the White House.

The move is likely to serve as one of the final acts of protest by Democrats on the Benghazi Committee, who have repeatedly questioned the integrity of the investigation. The committee’s five Democrats are ranking member Elijah Cummings (Md.), Reps. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Senate Armed Services chair not convinced of need for Trump's Space Force GOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote MORE (Wash), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff calls on Flynn to testify before House Intelligence Committee Stone admits to publishing false statements on InfoWars Trump White House preparing for 'knock-down, drag-out fight' with new House: report MORE (Calif.), Linda Sanchez (Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.).

At times the job has been easy, when prominent Republicans such as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) suggested that the committee was designed to drag down former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone fundraising off promise not to testify against Trump Rivaling chants of 'USA,' 'lock him up' greet Flynn after sentencing hearing The Hill's 12:30 Report — Flynn awaits sentencing | White House signals it wants to avoid shutdown MORE’s presidential campaign. But the strategy also carries risk, and has led to some of the more bitter congressional infighting in recent memory.

Four Americans died in the Sept. 11, 2012, militia attacks at a diplomatic facility and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. Among them was Ambassador Christopher Stevens, whose death catapulted the violence to global news.

The incident — along with what appeared to be inaccurate characterizations of what happened in the immediate aftermath — has haunted the Obama administration ever since.

In part, the attacks offered a harsh critique of the White House’s policy in Libya, following the ouster and death of strongman Moammar Qaddafi. In the years since Qaddafi’s overthrow in 2011, the North African nation has devolved into a fractiously governed chaos with multiple competing militias. The instability has given rise to an offshoot of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), whose proximity to Europe is a prominent worry for U.S. intelligence officials.

The administration has also faced long periods of fire for its explanation in the immediate aftermath of the attack that the violence was caused by a YouTube video demeaning the Prophet Mohammed, which sparked protests in other Muslim cities. In fact, the violence was carried out by extremists with ties to al Qaeda.  

The man alleged to have orchestrated the attack has been apprehended by U.S. authorities and is awaiting trial in Washington.

The terror in Benghazi was the inspiration for a blockbuster movie earlier this year, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”

It also prompted multiple investigations on Capitol Hill, all of which found deficiencies ahead of the attack but none uncovering a broad plot to mislead the public.

In their report on Monday, Democrats claimed that nothing uncovered by the Select Committee on Benghazi altered the underlying narrative about the events of Sept 11, 2012.

“Although the select committee obtained additional details that provide context and granularity, these details do not fundamentally alter the previous conclusions,” they wrote.

Among the 21 published findings, the Democrats claimed that security ahead of the violence was “woefully inadequate,” but that the Defense Department could not have done anything differently on the night of the attack.

No one in the military issued a “stand down” order, they claimed, countering allegations otherwise.

The report also exonerates Clinton, who Democrats said never personally denied security requests ahead of time and was heavily involved during the attacks.

“Secretary Clinton was active and engaged on the night of the attacks and in the days that followed,” the report alleged.

Republicans, looking to flip the script, noted that Clinton’s name is mentioned nearly four times as often as Stevens'.

“Benghazi Committee Democrats’ obsession with the former secretary of State is on full display,” spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement.

“The dishonest Democrats on this committee falsely claimed everything had been ‘asked and answered.’ They said the committee had found ‘absolutely nothing new,’” he added. “If that’s changed, they should come clean and admit it.

“If not, everyone can ignore their rehashed, partisan talking points defending their endorsed candidate for president.”

Democrats said their Monday release was prompted by Republicans’ refusal to hand over the draft they are preparing for release, despite comments by Gowdy suggesting that they would have access.

In recent months, Democrats have had limited access to committee documents, due to what Republicans say is their expressed desire to leak materials and disrupt the investigation.

The Democrats’ decision to release their rebuttal early, along with the 80 interview transcripts, is likely to inflame Republicans. The GOP-led investigation has been marked with harsh partisan sniping from both sides, as each accuses the other of wasting taxpayer money and besmirching the memories of the four Americans killed in the attacks.

Gowdy has said that the report is practically imminent, and many watchers expect it to be released before the Democratic and Republican party conventions this July.

By releasing their own report ahead of time, Democrats appear to be framing the committee’s report as one-sided and misleading.

In addition to details about the twin attacks in Benghazi, the Democrats’ report lists 26 points — running from A to Z — detailing how Republicans “squandered millions of dollars in a partisan effort to attack a presidential candidate.”

“As one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, the select committee’s actions serve as a case study in how not to conduct a credible, legitimate investigation,” the Democrats wrote.

This story was last updated at 2:09 p.m.