GOP congressman: The Benghazi Committee was designed to "go after" people -- especially Hillary Clinton

At least one commenter in the Headlines thread for this story thinks what Rep. Richard Hanna said is being distorted. Of course the Committee was “designed to go after” people, including and especially the Secretary of State who allowed the security fiasco in Benghazi to happen. The Watergate investigation was designed to “go after” Nixon, wasn’t it? That’s what investigative committees do. The media’s making it sound like Hanna meant to imply that there’s a nakedly partisan political motive to a committee that’s just doing its job by focusing on the major players in a scandal.

Read what he said, though. Sure sounds to me like he did mean to imply that this is mostly a partisan political hit on Hillary.

“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth,” Hanna said on the “Keeler in the Morning” radio show in New York. “This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people, and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

“After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not,” Hanna continued. “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.”

All of the rhetorical gadgets there — his “sinful” telling of a “politically incorrect” hard truth, his reference to what McCarthy said, his disappointment in the committee — amount to him acknowledging that he’s saying something his party really doesn’t want him to say. His point, clearly, is that the Benghazi investigation is exactly the sort of partisan witch hunt that Team Hillary keeps claiming it is. And right on cue, here’s the statement from the Clinton campaign:

“House Republicans aren’t even shy anymore about admitting that the Benghazi Committee is a partisan farce,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

“After failing to produce any new information on the tragic 2012 attacks at Benghazi despite a 17-month investigation, [Speaker] John Boehner [R-Ohio] has reportedly urged the committee to shift its focus to Hillary Clinton’s emails in an ongoing effort to try to hurt her politically. Hillary Clinton will still attend next week’s hearing, but at this point, Trey Gowdy’s inquiry has zero credibility left.”

Kevin McCarthy’s comments about the committee were distorted, I think, insofar as he never actually claimed that it was motivated by partisan politics. His point to Hannity in saying that Hillary’s “numbers were dropping” thanks to the committee’s work was really just a clumsy way of saying that the server shenanigans that had been discovered were an important revelation to the public. Their declining faith in Hillary was proof that they saw real malfeasance in what the committee had unearthed. The tone of what Hanna said is different. He voted to create the Benghazi Committee in May 2014 but he sounded skeptical about it even at the time, saying during one interview that “there have been close to 40 (House hearings) and they have not been able to find a smoking gun.” Now this.

Why he’d want to impugn their integrity, I don’t know. Some commenters think it’s part of a coordinated plan by the dreaded GOP establishment to destroy public respect for the committee, whether out of pure anti-conservative malevolence or to punish the right for blocking McCarthy’s Speaker bid or … I don’t really understand the theory. (If the idea was to tank the committee, why would they have agreed to let Trey Gowdy lead it in the first place?) A stronger but more prosaic theory is that Hanna’s doing it out of political self-interest. He represents a district in upstate New York that’s only mildly Republican in its political orientation (R+3), a dangerous place to be knowing that heavily Democratic New York will likely be voting next fall with a former senator from New York at the top of the Democratic ballot. Maybe Hanna’s worried about big blue turnout in November and thinks giving Hillary some cover against the Benghazi Committee will earn him brownie points with Democratic-leaning swing voters.