After a year and a half of inconclusive and controversial hearings, Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday demanded an end to a Republican-led investigation into the deadly attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, calling the probe a partisan “witch hunt.”
Congressmen Adam Smith (Washington State), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Elijah Cummings (Maryland), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the multiple inquiries and reports have largely answered the questions surrounding the September 11, 2012, assault.
Four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed when heavily armed gunmen attacked the US Consulate and a nearby CIA annex in a different compound in Benghazi.
The debate over the events before, during, and after the attack featured heavily in the 2012 US Presidential election. In the following months, several congressional and administrative investigations were launched, some of which are still currently ongoing, and the topic remains a matter of great controversy, including the CIA’s presence and role at the diplomatic mission.
Nineteen months after the attack, Republicans are “throwing the same mud against the wall and hoping it sticks,” Smith told journalists on Capitol Hill. “It is time to get past the Benghazi witch hunt.”
Republicans, who control the House, insist there are unresolved issues and they have a responsibility to fulfill their oversight role. But the top Congressional Republican, House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), earlier this week seemed to be reluctant to carry on the Benghazi investigations.
Cummings and Smith spoke before the House committees planned to interview retired Army General Carter Ham, who headed US Africa Command on the night of the attack.
Cummings said Ham has been interviewed at least six times, and that an independent report and a Republican report from the House Armed Services Committee found no evidence of a “stand down” order to the military, delaying a response.
“It’s insulting the way Republicans are treating the military,” Cummings said.
Numerous independent and congressional investigations have largely faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the mission.
Democrats suspect Republicans to keep on targeting then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the sole purpose of creating a campaign issue in case Clinton decides to run for president in 2016.
Republicans on the other hand have accused the Obama administration of trying to mislead the American people about an act of terrorism in the final weeks before the November 2012 election.
House Speaker Boehner on Monday reiterated his position that he will not create a special committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks, despite pressure from the House Republican caucus to do so.
“There are four committees that are investigating Benghazi,” Boehner said on Fox News. “I see no reason to break up all the work that’s been done and to take months and months and months to create some select committee.” So far the Republican-led House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees have all held hearings on the supposed scandal.
Having spent millions of dollars and countless hours investigating the Obama administration’s allegedly nefarious role covering up its handling of the Benghazi attacks, the Republicans haven’t come up with anything to implicate the White House in some kind of Watergate-like scandal.
And while it seems like Boehner is getting the hint that it’s time to move on, Fox News reported late last month that rank-and-file House Republicans have set up what is described as a ‘working group’ “to further review the 2012 Benghazi terror attack”.
The dispute within the Republican Party on Benghazi extends beyond the House. Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), mired in a re-election bid and facing a Tea Party primary challenger, has made Benghazi his pet issue, which at times has inflamed some of the right’s most prominent pundits.
As if to punctuate how the supposed scandal isn’t going away anytime soon, a group of Republican senators held a press conference on Wednesday. The subject? Demanding a joint committee on investigate the Obama administration. It was at least the fifth such call for a committee.