A newly released “smoking gun” Benghazi email – which was improbably obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and not via the numerous but uncoordinated congressional investigations into the issue – underscores the need for a special committee to investigate the matter, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said in a new letter.
“Yesterday, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch released a new set of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request directly tying senior White House officials to inaccurate messaging about the deadly terror attacks in Benghazi,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH). “Notably, these documents were withheld from a set of e-mails released by the White House last May; now we know why.”
One email, dated Sept. 14, 2012, had then-deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes writing that one of the “goals” of the administration’s now-infamous talking points about the terrorist attack was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of [administration] policy.”
“The newly released e-mails further underscore then-deputy CIA director Michael Morell’s role in coordinating with the White House and Secretary Clinton’s office on significant changes to the messaging,” Wolf wrote to Boehner.
In one such email, Wolf noted, administration officials noted that Morell “had taken a heavy hand to editing [the talking points]. He noted that he would be happy to work with [then deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton] Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.”
Wolf has been pushing for a select committee to be installed to investigate the Benghazi scandal for over a year. His bill that would create such a committee, House Resolution 36, has 190 GOP cosponsors–more than 80 percent of the House GOP conference. But Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is blocking the creation of the select committee for now, stating that he thinks the five Congressional committees currently investigating are doing enough. Those committees are: Armed Services, Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is for now backing Boehner’s decision to hold off on a select committee, issued a statement in response to the new Benghazi evidence saying he thinks it is “increasingly clear that this Administration orchestrated an effort to deflect attention away from their failed Libya policy and the resurgence of al Qaeda and other terrorists.”
“The emails provide additional evidence that senior officials knew the attack on our mission in Benghazi was a complex attack and not a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video,” Cantor said. “Some may say, what difference at this point does it make? Well, four brave Americans were killed in Benghazi and to date it appears that more has been done to protect internal emails than to bring the murderers of these Americans to justice.”
Wolf argues that this new evidence of an Obama administration orchestration of the coverup is yet another sign that a select committee is needed–and that the venue through the which the information came out, Judicial Watch via Freedom of Information Act instead of a House committee via subpoena, is another sign a select committee is needed.
“These are just a few of the troubling revelations in the documents Judicial Watch obtained, including how the White House planned to deflect questions about comparisons with Gov. Romney’s policies,” Wolf wrote to Boehner, citing instances where mainstream media reporters have cited these emails along with other evidence to note serious malfeasance on the White House’s part.
Furthermore, Wolf argued to Boehner, “it is now abundantly clear that senior White House staff were directly involved in coordinating the messaging in response to the Benghazi attacks and were actively working to tie the reason to the infamous Internet video, which they knew from the CIA and others was demonstrably false” and that means the White House “lied” about national security matters so as to “influence an electoral outcome.”
“In light of these new documents, it is more clear than ever that a House Select Committee is needed to conduct a comprehensive investigation unhindered by jurisdictional barriers, interview all key administration witnesses, including the White House staff identified in these e-mails, and hold public hearings to explain to the American people, once and for all, just what happened that night and in the days and weeks that followed,” Wolf wrote.
“As yesterday’s revelation made abundantly clear, we cannot trust the administration to be forthcoming so a Select Committee must have subpoena authority as well. A Select Committee is the only way we can assemble the team of Members and staff, including seasoned lawyers and investigators who have expertise in conducting these types of investigations. Additionally, while White House officials traditionally haven’t agreed to appear before standing committees, there is precedent for them to appear before a Select Committee.”
Wolf noted, too, that more than a year–nineteen months to be exact–has gone by without justice for the families of the victims in Benghazi. During that time, Wolf wrote, Americans have waited for what Boehner calls “regular order” to actually get somewhere.
“Instead, today, we still have more questions than answers,” Wolf wrote. “We have outside watchdog groups accessing vital information involving the death of an American ambassador at the same time that a congressional committee, constitutionally charged with oversight, is given access to this same information.”
Wolf added that he is “concerned” that if Boehner keeps blocking a select committee’s creation, “this House will have failed.”
“We will have failed the families of the victims, failed the survivors, failed the CIA agents and State Department employees who have been intimidated into silence and, most importantly, failed the American people,” Wolf wrote. “To date, not a single person in government has been held accountable for what transpired that night and not one terrorist has been captured or killed. While we cannot control how this administration pursues, or fails to pursue, those terrorists responsible for the deaths of four Americans, we can ensure that the American people learn the truth about what happened and which officials should be held accountable.”
Wolf ended his letter to Boehner with a simple question: “What further evidence is needed of the White House’s role in bungling the response to the attack and later coordinating the dissemination of intentionally false information?”
A spokesman for Boehner did not respond to a request for comment.