The final report from the House Benghazi Committee is due in a few weeks. The White House is refusing to answer the final round of questions from House investigators, while the Democratic minority in the House is trying to upstage the majority’s work by releasing their own report a few weeks early.
The White House absurdly portrayed its intransigence as a constitutional battle over the separation of powers, which is especially interesting coming from this particular president. Politico reports on the letter from White House counsel Neil Eggleston to the House Benghazi Committee and their heated response:
Eggleston has encouraged Obama not to answer the committee’s questions “because of the implications of his response on the constitutional separation of powers,” according to a letter sent Saturday to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and obtained by POLITICO.
“If the president were to answer your questions, his response would suggest that Congress has the unilateral power to demand answers from the president about his official acts,” the letter reads.
Eggleston also accused the panel of asking questions it already knew the answer to — something the committee denies.
And Gowdy’s panel criticized the White House’s response as unhelpful to its investigation. Committee members have been trying to answer several unresolved questions before releasing their final report in the coming weeks.
“It’s no surprise President Obama would rather take questions from Derek Jeter than answer questions for the American people about the Benghazi terrorist attacks, which followed what he himself has called his worst mistake — failing to plan for what happened after the State Department pushed U.S. intervention in Libya,” said committee spokesman Jamal Ware, referring to Obama’s chat a few days ago with the former New York Yankee. “The White House’s fictional narrative today is the latest chapter of the story it has been spinning since 2012, when four of our fellow citizens were murdered by Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the tragic terrorist attacks in Benghazi.”
House Democrats chimed in by falsely accusing the Republicans of waiting until the last minute to ask their questions of the president, a charge easily slapped down by Chairman Gowdy:
Gowdy told Eggleston two years ago, in 2014, that he would at some point wish to ask the president a series of questions about the attack — not by compelling an appearance but via written inquiry. Gowdy again brought it up at a face-to-face meeting with Eggleston, his deputy and a top White House congressional liaison in Charlotte, North Carolina, in January 2016. He even offered to show the White House the questions in advance and provide the underlying testimony that led the panel to ask such questions, sources say.
Gowdy’s questions for the president included whether “Obama ever authorized covert actions to provide weapons to Libyan rebels; if the president had ever personally viewed the surveillance footage of the attack; when Obama learned of the identities of terrorists involved that day; and whether he was aware of ‘any efforts by White House and Department of Defense official during [the attack] to reach out to YouTube and Terry Jones regarding an anti-Muslim video?’”
Gowdy never got an answer to any of those questions, just a letter from Obama’s counsel impugning his motives for daring to ask them. The House Benghazi Committee noted that there’s no separation-of-powers drama inherent in the situation because they made no effort to compel the president to answer. He was always free to refuse, but being Obama, the refusal had to be wrapped in sanctimonious nonsense that portrays the president as a champion of constitutional propriety.
As for the argument that some of these questions are repetitive, intended solely to embarass the president, the committee noted that some of his previous answers have, quite simply, been proven false. “For example, the committee asked Obama when he first learned of the attack. Eggleston had responded that he was briefed about 5 p.m. But the panel says that was a previously scheduled meeting about an unrelated topic, and the panel says the reply doesn’t answer the question about when Obama first became aware of the attack, which started at 3:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time,” Politico reports.
“Benghazi Committee Democrats and their friends at the White House, Pentagon and State Department will no doubt stick to their playbook of partisan slander, mischaracterizations and pointless stunts meant to distract from the facts they’d rather the American people and the families of those lost never know,” House Benghazi Committee spokesman Jamal Ware told Politico, insisting, “there is no statute of limitations on the truth.”
That is the heart of the dispute: Democrats think the “statute of limitations” on Benghazi ran out when Obama won re-election.
The Democrats restate that case in their amazingly weak “minority report” — which, as CNN describes it, is a screed against Republicans for daring to ask questions.
“We have been hampered in our work by the ongoing Republican obsession with conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality,” huffed the Democrats. “Rather than reject these conspiracy theories in the absence of evidence – or in the face of hard facts – Select Committee Republicans embraced them and turned them into a political crusade.”
The Democrats brush aside the big questions about Benghazi to focus on narrow issues, like the hunt for a “stand-down order” that would definitively prove Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally thwarted a rescue mission that had a real chance of saving the Americans who died in Benghazi.
Even the Democrats’ report admits that State Department security measures for the consulate were “woefully inadequate,” but as long as Clinton “never personally denied any requests for additional security,” it’s nobody’s fault. The larger question of why there wasn’t an effective Plan B response ready to roll when a U.S. ambassador came under attack in a terrorist hot zone is a political challenge Democrats think they can finesse.
The Democrats also try to muddy some waters that have already been made quite clear — we know, from such sources as the emails Hillary Clinton kept hidden for so many years, that everyone knew the “video protest” story was false from Minute One, but House Democrats are still trying to make that false narrative look like an honest mistake, a bad call made in the heat of battle.
The Democrats’ report is not exactly making a strong impression as a serious forensic document:
Dems’ Benghazi report mentions Donald Trump 23 times, underscoring their totally sincere concern about politicization of this investigation.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) June 27, 2016
The Democratic Party and its media have been on the same page since the morning after the Benghazi attack, and without a “smoking gun” that catches Obama or Clinton directly giving an order that indisputably led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his valiant defenders, House Republicans are not likely to change the long-settled narrative.