Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is not very happy with the Defense Department.
The South Carolina Republican, who chairs the Select Committee on Benghazi, has hit road blocks at the Pentagon for his quest to interview men and women of the military who were on call the night of September 11, 2012 when four Americans died during a seven hour terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
I interviewed Gowdy on WMAL in Washington, DC Thursday morning, along with my co-host Brian Wilson.
Wilson asked Gowdy to respond to the latest Fox News reports which include anonymous military personnel who say they were told not to intervene that night in Benghazi, even though his unit was ready and prepared to make a difference and, possibly, save American lives.
Gowdy said he was intent on interviewing these witnesses but he has not been able to identify them because the Pentagon is blocking his way. He went on to lambaste the latest exchange of letters with the DOD.
“The last letter they wrote me should be considered for the Nobel prize for fiction. It was stunningly disrespectful to the men and women who serve in uniform. this political appointee who wrote us a letter.”
The political appointee Gowdy was referring to was one Stephen Hedger who has recently been appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Prior to joining Defense, Hedger was a political operative for Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill.
Government Executive highlights part of the letter Gowdy describes as “fiction” in his interview:
Responding to Gowdy’s recent requests—delivered on short notice, in the Pentagon’s view—to interview pilots heretofore not identified but who allegedly were involved in Benghazi operations, Hedger was equally firm in criticizing Gowdy’s “unrealistic” timelines:
“While we understand that investigations evolve over time, it is unfortunate that the committee has identified the need for these interviews only now. The number and continued pace of these requests since February 2016 are in tension with your staff’s statements that the committee expects to finish its investigation in the near term,” Hedger wrote. He added that there is insufficient time and information to identify the service members Gowdy seeks to interview. “Subpoenaing our service members,” he added, “when the department is working diligently to accommodate your requests and when no service member has refused to appear voluntarily, is unfair to our uniformed men and women and an unproductive way forward.”
Hedger also made claims in the correspondence that sound like they’re lifted from the Clinton campaign’s talking points on the Benghazi investigation. “This type of questioning poses the risk that your final report may be based on speculation rather than a fact-based analysis of what a military officer did do or could have done given his or her knowledge at the time of the attacks,” he wrote.
In our interview, Gowdy went on to question Hillary Clinton’s October testimony before his committee where she claimed the military was asked to intercede but they determined they couldn’t get to Benghazi in time. This is an oft-repeated claim, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. As investigative reporter Sharyl Atkisson puts it:
Gowdy was also perplexed by the claim:
“I have no clue. It has never made sense to me. When you don’t know when something is going to end, you have no idea whether you can get there in time or not. Now she may have meant, ‘we thought after the initial attack it was over.’ OK. If that’s what you thought, you wound up being wrong, but that’s what you need to say.”
Gowdy is certainly frustrated as he continues to try to get to the truth of what happened that night in Benghazi. He seems determined to wade through the road blocks and the politics and keep his eye on that primary goal. As he told us during our interview, “I think the memories of those four fallen Americans will settle for the truth. We can’t change what happened. But, the least we can do is honor them with the truth about how it happened, why it happened, who made decisions and who didn’t make decisions.”