Benghazi committee plans new interview

Benghazi committee plans new interview
© Greg Nash

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is scheduling at least one new interview this week, even after releasing its long-awaited report.

In a statement late Tuesday evening — hours after GOP leaders released their 800-page analysis of the 2012 terrorist attacks in the Libyan city — the committee said it would be proceeding with a new interview of a military official who claimed on Facebook that he might have knowledge of the incident.

ADVERTISEMENT

The committee requested an interview with the unnamed official months ago, it said. But the Pentagon did not make him available until Tuesday. 

“The committee will not allow the Defense Department’s needless delays to stop it from interviewing a witness it sought to speak with several months ago,” committee spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement. “The committee’s proposed report can be updated with any new testimony when it is marked up and voted on.”

The draft version of the committee's report, released on Tuesday, is scheduled to be made official at a vote next week. 

The interview is likely to anger Democrats, who have long considered the committee’s investigation to be a thinly veiled partisan attack on former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Anti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey MORE.

“Republicans are addicted to Benghazi and to exploiting this tragedy for political reasons,” ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement on Wednesday. “If we needed any more evidence that this investigation was a partisan charade, now we have it.”

“Why in the world should the American taxpayers be forced to continue paying millions of dollars for Republicans to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton?”

After the Republican committee leaders released their report on Tuesday, Clinton and others had hoped to turn the page on the issue.

But Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE (R-S.C.) and other Republicans have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling or slow-walking responses to their inquiries. And Gowdy has said his panel will continue examining documents and interviewing witnesses even after the report comes out.  

In April, the Pentagon made an extraordinarily public protest to the committee’s “multiple and changing requests,” in what the committee leaders described as an orchestrated effort to undermine the investigation’s integrity. In that letter, the Defense Department’s top liaison to Capitol Hill called the interview of the military official — who claimed to have been a mechanic at an airbase in Europe the night of the Benghazi attack and said that planes could have reached Benghazi before the violence ended — unnecessary.

“The department maintains that locating these types of individuals are not necessary since such claims are easily dismissed by any one of the multiple high-level military officials already interviewed," the Defense official said. 

Committee leaders have insisted that hearing from lower-level officials is as important as interviewing senior leaders to get a full sense of the events of the 2012 terrorist attack.

The committee intends to make the transcript of the interview with the military official and others public once it is cleared for release, the spokesman said.  

The Benghazi committee’s report added additional details to the public’s understanding of the raid on two U.S. facilities four years ago. But the revelations are not likely to fundamentally alter the public’s understanding of the attack. And while Clinton is criticized heavily, she is not singled out for being singularly culpable for events that occurred.

Updated at 11:21 a.m.