The chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi pushed back Sunday against Republican critics who say the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the 9/11/2012 attacks is politically motivated.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he has told GOP colleagues to “shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found.”
Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday. She has called the panel “a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee” and said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday: “I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don’t really know what their objective is right now.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested in a recent Fox News interview that the committee was formed to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Bradley F. Podliska, a former Republican staffer on the committee, also called the investigation politically motivated.
Gowdy said McCarthy, Hanna and Podliska are “three people who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.”
He added that his position on the committee’s purpose has remained consistent: “Four dead Americans is more than enough work for me. She’s [Clinton] a witness. She was the secretary of state. You have to talk to her. But we have already talked to 50 people not named Clinton. We’re going to talk to another couple of dozen not named Clinton.
Gowdy noted that Stevens’ emails show that Ambassador Stevens had requested additional security as soon as he was put into place in June 2012. But the emails Stevens received in response from Foggy Bottom seem to show that State Department officials were more concerned with bad PR for the Obama administration during an election year than dealing with the uptick in violence.
According to Gowdy, instead of addressing his security concerns, Clinton aide Jake Sullivan asked Stevens to read and respond to an email from longtime Clinton henchman Sidney Blumenthal.
“So [Stevens is] asking for security and [Clinton State Department aide] Jake Sullivan in Washington is asking our ambassador, the day after our facility is attacked by an IED, to read and respond to an email from Sidney Blumenthal,” Gowdy said.
Clinton relied on Blumenthal for foreign policy advice even though he did not work in the State Department. He was barred from employment there by former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, although Blumenthal did work for the Clinton Foundation.
In another email, State Department official Victoria Nuland asked Stevens for advice on political messaging to help her spin the increasingly dangerous situation in Libya.
Clinton and Obama pushed for the removal of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. But his removal in 2011 created a power vacuum. That allowed terrorist groups to gain power.
“He needed help with security. He didn’t need help with PR,” Gowdy said Sunday of Stevens.
Gowdy also said that Stevens’ emails show that he was so disenchanted with the State Department over its security gaps, that “he even joked in an email, maybe we should ask another government to pay for our security upgrades because our government isn’t willing to do it.”
Asked if there was anything new in regards to a potential military rescue on that night, Gowdy answered, “There’s more information on our military preparedness, and our inability/ability to respond — some of that information I’m not able to give you publicly. I would just tell you this,” he added cryptically. “We have new information on the three tranches of Libya that have nothing to do with this or Secretary Clinton.”
As for what he hopes to learn from Clinton’s testimony on Thursday, Gowdy said that he wants to know why as violence was going up in Libya, the U.S.’s security profile was going down.
“It wasn’t even staying the same,” Gowdy noted. “It was going down.”