The chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi and a Democrat on that panel disagreed on whether testimony from former CIA Director David Petraeus yielded new information.
The committee interviewed Petraeus behind closed doors for four hours Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Fox News the interview was productive, without going into too much detail about what the retired Army general specifically said.
Gowdy did note that Petraeus was able to describe “with a degree of specificity” the difference in the measures taken by CIA and the State Department to secure their respective annex at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, before it was attack by jihadists on September 11, 2012.
“The place that he helped me the most yesterday is this notion of whether or not we had assets that could have impacted what happened in Benghazi,” the chairman told Fox News Thursday. “And if we did not have assets in the region, and this is a really important question… why did we not have assets in region on the anniversary of [the] 9/11 [attacks on the U.S. homeland]?”
Gowdy indicated that various witnesses who have testified before the committee have provided different answers to that question, including some who have passed the blame onto others.
“What Gen. Petraeus said yesterday, not only was it constructive, it’s constructive enough that we’re going to talk to him again,” the chairman also told Fox News. “He is a unique witness.”
On the other hand, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat on the Benghazi panel, suggested that the testimony from Petraeus, who was CIA director when the attack occurred, did not reveal any new details.
In fact, Schiff said the former CIA director once again debunked several conspiracy theories about the twin assaults in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
“What he is saying is completely consistent with what he’s said in the past and indeed with the conclusions of the bipartisan [House] Intelligence committee report,” said Schiff, as he emerged from the closed-door session.
Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, argued that no order to stand down was issued and also denied claims of a gun-running operation, allegedly sanctioned by the Obama administration and lawmakers from both parties.
Fox News learned from unnamed sources that committee members grilled the retired general about “botched rescue efforts, why CIA security contractors were told to wait and not immediately aid ambassador Stevens, and what he knew about the covert shipment of weapons from Arab nations to arm the Syrian opposition.”
The news outlet also reportedly learned that the “CIA has withheld from the committee real time message traffic from the night of the attack.”
Gowdy stressed that Petraeus has been asked to return, on a date yet to be determined, to answer additional questions.
“We’re going to get back together,” said the chairman, according to the Associated Press (AP).
“He’s a really important witness,” added Gowdy, without going into detail about the unanswered questions. “He’s willing to answer more questions, and we have more questions. That’s a good combination, when you have more questions and the witness is willing to answer them.”
Petraeus reportedly refused to answer questions from reporters after his interview.
The GOP-led Benghazi panel has interviewed 64 witnesses in all, and reviewed an estimated 100,000 pages of documents.
“The Benghazi committee appears to be closing in on the homestretch of its work amid repeated attacks from Democrats, who say the investigation has gone on for too long,” reports The Hill. “Democrats, who fought the creation of the panel from the start, on Wednesday highlighted that the 9/11 Commission took less time than the Benghazi panel to release its final report.”
Gowdy said the investigation is almost completed, noting that the panel is still waiting to receive documents from the White House, CIA, and State Department.
“The two-year investigation by the GOP-led Intelligence panel found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees,” notes AP.
“The report, issued in November 2014, debunked persistent allegations, and found there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria,” it adds.
Petraeus resigned from his position as CIA director shortly after the 2012 attacks amid the scandal of an extramarital affair.
He pleaded guilty last year to one charge of mishandling classified material for leaking classified information to his mistress and biographer Paula Broadwell.
The Hill quoted Gowdy as saying that legal trouble was one reason why Petraeus could not appear before the committee until Wednesday.
On Friday, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to be interviewed by the committee, also behind closed-doors.
President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice and top aide Ben Rhodes are also expected to testify to soon, according to Gowdy.