Consider this the end to the deeply unserious reaction to Kevin McCarthy’s ill-considered remarks about the impact that the Benghazi Select Committee has had on the presidential election — even if they’re true in a literal sense. The ranking member on the House panel, Elijah Cummings, demanded that John Boehner and Trey Gowdy disband the committee after McCarthy’s noting of the political damage it had done to Hillary Clinton. Boehner responded today by essentially advising Cummings not to hold his breath — and to start demanding more cooperation from Hillary and Barack Obama instead:
House Speaker John Boehner denied Thursday that the panel investigating the Benghazi attack is political or aimed at discrediting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In a statement, he said will not disband the committee, despite controversial comments made this week by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the panel helped Republicans damage Clinton politically.
“This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be,” Boehner said in a statement provided to CNN Thursday. “Indeed, the Select Committee’s very existence is only the result of the Obama administration’s obstruction of routine congressional investigations and its failure to properly comply with subpoenas and document requests.”
The full statement went out shortly before CNN posted their story, in which Boehner reminded everyone of the stakes involved in the investigation, and precisely why it has taken this long to conduct:
“On May 2, 2014, the House established the Select Committee on Benghazi to investigate what happened before, during, and after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and to ensure that justice is finally served. Four Americans lost their lives in this terrorist attack because they were left without adequate security in one of the most dangerous places in the world. Their loved ones still don’t know the full truth about what happened, and they deserve real answers. All Americans do.
“This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be. Indeed, the Select Committee’s very existence is only the result of the Obama administration’s obstruction of routine congressional investigations and its failure to properly comply with subpoenas and document requests. The fact remains that Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration have done everything they can to delay, derail, and stop this investigation. They’ve failed to turn over documents in a timely way, and their own actions have needlessly prolonged this panel’s work.
“The members of this committee have worked diligently and professionally to fulfill this important mission and they will continue to do so. That’s why we said from the very beginning that Secretary Clinton’s server should be turned over to a neutral, independent, third party, like the FBI. That’s why the Select Committee has interviewed dozens and dozens of people away from the TV cameras. That’s why Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton’s former chief of staff, has thanked Chairman Gowdy and the Committee for their ‘professionalism’ and ‘respect’ and ‘the work they’re doing.’
“The American people deserve the truth about what happened in Benghazi. That’s always been our focus, and that’s going to remain our focus.”
So don’t expect the panel to wrap up its work any time in the near future, in other words. Cummings can protest all he wants, and could even stage a Democratic walkout, but the work will continue nonetheless. If Democrats don’t want to participate, that will look … mighty strange, given the context of four dead Americans and a failed state as a result of Hillary’s handling of foreign policy in Libya.
Still, this could have repercussions for McCarthy, who’s vying to replace Boehner. Both Jason Chaffetz and Justin Amash expressed concern over McCarthy’s remarks, with Amash hinting that the concern could be ongoing into the leadership debate:
“[It is] an absolutely inappropriate statement,” Chaffetz told host Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room” Wednesday evening, saying McCarthy’s comment distracts from the committee’s work.
“That was not the reason we started,” Chaffetz added of the select committee. “We started because there were four dead Americans and we didn’t have answers.” …
“I totally disagree with those comments,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told CNN on Wednesday. “I think it should be a concern.”
It may very well become a concern if McCarthy makes any more missteps. The House Republican caucus is already on edge, and they need to have confidence in their leadership moving forward. The last thing the GOP needs is to provide Democrats with ammunition about politicizing the Benghazi probe or any other forms of oversight on the executive branch, which clearly has worked to thwart Congress over the last few years.