On Thursday, the chairman of the select committee tasked with investigating the Benghazi attacks, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), followed through with his promise to compel former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before the committee again.
In a letter addressed to Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, Gowdy requested that Clinton appear at some point in the third week of May to ask her about her exclusive use of a private email server to conduct State Department business. Unless the committee is satisfied with the documentation that they will require Clinton to submit to congressional investigators, they may also ask that she testify again regarding her response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Libya on June 18.
“Discussing Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email with which to conduct public business is a necessary predicate to discussing the facts surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi,” the letter addressed to Clinton’s legal team read.
Rather than respond to the Benghazi committee, Clinton’s campaign apparatus issued a public statement described by CNN as “blistering.” John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, insisted that reports indicating the Benghazi committee’s work would not be completed before early next year was “the most telling evidence yet that their investigation is solely about playing politics in the 2016 presidential campaign.”
“Sadly, Republicans are determined to continue to exploit this tragedy in an effort to try and hurt her campaign,” Podesta’s statement read.
But who is truly holding up the work of the Benghazi committee? “Gowdy and other Republicans are quick to point out that the committee’s time table is largely dependent on how long it takes to gather documents and testimony from Clinton and the Obama administration, factors outside of their control,” CNN reported.
By Clinton’s own admission, quite a bit of the documentation that the committee would like to peruse has been destroyed and will remain irretrievable unless she surrenders the server on which her private email system was hosted. But even if Clinton had access to the information the committee will likely want to see, it’s unclear that she has much of a motive to surrender it.
In the same way that her campaign team has attempted to portray the former secretary of state as a victim – and of The New York Times, no less – on the issue of her alleged facilitation of Russian nuclear ambitions in exchange for donations to the Clinton foundation, Hillary’s political team surely views the continued existence of the Benghazi committee as a boon to her political ambitions. Gowdy’s committee provides Clinton with a foil she might use to portray herself as the target of undue Republican persecution.
Surely, her supporters in the Democratic Party’s grassroots and in the press will agree with this characterization, but it is unclear that the majority of the public will agree. In the summer of last year, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that a majority of the public approved of the Benghazi committee’s establishment, and only 37 percent endorsed the former secretary’s handling of the attacks.
In December, a House Intelligence Committee review of the attacks (which was conspicuously deferential to the CIA) was particularly hard on Clinton’s State Department for ignoring the Benghazi outpost’s request for additional protection and the deteriorating security environment in Libya.
As for the spurious notion shared by many on the left that the committee is a perfectly superfluous vehicle to pursue a political witch-hunt, it was this committee’s investigation that uncovered Clinton’s dubious email practices in the first place. That discovery alone justifies any further probing into Clinton’s tenure at State.
For the sophisticated set inside the Acela Corridor, the Benghazi attacks have been thoroughly litigated and any continued investigation into that episode satisfies only Republicans’ desire to see Hillary Clinton diminished. In that determination, the consensus opinion of coastal elites is far removed from that shared by the rest of the country. Polls show the public does not agree that the Benghazi committee is a political exercise, and the fact that the investigation has already born fruit vindicates its existence.
The notion that Clinton is a victim of the committee’s partisan malice might animate committed liberals, but that is not a point of view shared by the rest of the public.