Democrats have seized on the comments of a New York Republican as evidence of a pattern of GOPs admitting that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a hit job on Hillary Clinton.
Counting the comments of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who then dropped out of the Speaker of the House race, as the first Republican admission, Dems are running with the comments from Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.).
“This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after… an individual: Hillary Clinton,” Hanna told radio station WIBX 950 in New York.
Hanna, a centrist who endorsed Jon Huntsman for president in 2012, sits on the Educations, Transportation and Small Business committees. He is not a member of the Benghazi select committee.
Clinton’s campaign quickly issued a statement charging that “House Republicans aren’t even shy anymore about admitting that the Benghazi Committee is a partisan farce.”
“After failing to produce any new information on the tragic 2012 attacks at Benghazi despite a 17-month investigation, John Boehner has reportedly urged the committee to shift its focus to Hillary Clinton’s emails in an ongoing effort to try to hurt her politically,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “Hillary Clinton will still attend next week’s hearing, but at this point, Trey Gowdy’s inquiry has zero credibility left.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee picked up the charge today, sending out an email today stressing that Hanna is now responsible for reining in his GOP colleagues’ investigation.
“Yesterday, Richard Hanna admitted what we already know, that his House Republican colleagues wasted $4.5 million taxpayer dollars through the Benghazi Committee to carry out their party’s dirty political attacks,” Bryan Lesswing of the DCCC said in the statement. “Actions speak louder than words. Will he now take the logical next step and call on his colleagues to disband this bogus, wasteful committee, and instead focus on the critical deadlines facing the Republican-led Congress, including renewing the Highway Trust Fund, ensuring that the U.S. pays off its debts and passing a bipartisan budget?”
Hanna said today that his remarks “were aimed broadly at partisanship and politics in Washington.”
“I voted for the resolution to establish a Select Committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya,” Hanna said. “I support Chairman (Trey) Gowdy and the Select Committee in their efforts to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi. I urge both parties to keep the focus on the facts, not the politics. The families of those who lost their loved ones in Benghazi deserve no less.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and the Benghazi committee, told MSNBC today that Hanna’s original assertion was “just absurd” and “false on its face.”
“I have been on this investigation now with Chairman Gowdy and six other Republicans for 14 months. I have watched. I think the American people will see that next Thursday,” when Clinton testifies in open session, Pompeo said.
“They will see that we have conducted dozens and dozens of interviews with people no committee had interviewed before. Our investigation isn’t complete next Thursday, either. We will continue. You may lose interest in it but we won’t because we have an important mission to solve the riddle of how this preventable incident led to the death of four Americans and no one to this date has been held accountable for that… We have the obligation next Thursday to ask her questions. Whether she has the qualifications to be president, the American people sort out 13 months from now.”
UPDATE 6:30 p.m. EST: Benghazi committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) noted in a statement that “there are seven members of the Benghazi Committee who are intimately familiar with the work of the committee, the motives behind the work, and the results of that work,” but “Congressman Hanna is not one of them.”
“Recently, Mr. Hanna and I talked informally about the committee and he raised neither questions with the scope or the approach of the committee. I called Mr. Hanna this morning to find out if he had any concerns since our last conversation and offered him some insights to the committee’s work. Among other things I noted is the fact the Committee recently received emails from Ambassador Chris Stevens, but I also highlighted the fact that we have not rushed out to talk about them, but are instead evaluating them in the serious, fact-centric way evidence should be handled,” Gowdy said.
“Running investigations in a private, fact-centric way is unquestionably the right way to conduct a serious investigation. The pitfall, of course, is that commentators, and sometimes even Members of your own Conference, offer thoughts on matters on which they are not familiar.”