House Democrats ask to review Benghazi report before it is released

June 2, 2016 in News by RBN Staff

Source: The Hill | By Julian Hattem

House Democrats are asking for a chance to review the GOP’s report on the Benghazi terrorist attacks before it is released to the public.

The five Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) proposing a “joint report” on Benghazi that starts with findings shared by lawmakers in both parties “followed by areas on which reasonable people may disagree.”

Failing that, Democrats said they should be able to review a draft copy of the Republican-led committee’s work, in order to add “corrections, additional context or other input before you release it publicly.” In exchange, Democrats said they would let Republicans review their own opposing report for the same purpose.

“In our view, the worst approach would be for you to publicly release a partisan report drafted only by Republicans that has never been reviewed by nearly half of the select committee members,” ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and the committee’s four other Democrats wrote.

“Such a report would not have the benefit of robust vetting by all select committee members and, as a result, very likely would include critical errors and other deficiencies.”

Matt Wolking, a spokesman for the Benghazi committee, appeared to dismiss the Tuesday letter, suggesting Democrats would not be able to edit the report ahead of time.

“These do-nothing Democrats pretending to be interested in the truth are the same ones who refused to help with the investigation and wasted millions of dollars trying to undermine and obstruct it,” Wolking said in a statement.

“It’s obvious the Democrats aren’t serious, and their two-faced antics and dishonest distortions are just part of the political game they’re playing on the taxpayers’ dime,” he added.

“While they stick to knocking down their own straw men and trying to prove their predetermined political conclusions, Republicans are following the facts and working to provide answers to the families of the victims and the American people,” he added.

After more than two years of work, the Benghazi committee is preparing to release its report at some point in June, Gowdy said in an interview in May. That would put the release of the document before the Democratic National Convention, when Hillary Clinton — who was secretary of State at the time of the Benghazi attacks — could become her party’s nominee for president.

Democrats on the Benghazi committee have largely rejected the efforts of Republicans preparing the report to analyze the 2012 violence in Libya, which left four Americans dead. Gowdy limited the ability of the Democrats to review interviews and other documents after they publicly released interview transcripts that were meant to be secret.

GOP lawmakers have repeatedly blasted Democrats for releasing what they claim are selectively edited portions of interviews in order to discredit the investigation.

Democrats, in turn, have accused Republicans of leaking snippets of interviews to boost their own narrative about the Obama administration’s failures during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on two U.S. facilities in Libya.

Democrats have accused Gowdy and his colleagues of launching a witch hunt against Clinton ahead of her likely nomination for president. Critics of the panel’s work have claimed that the protracted nature of its investigation was designed to do maximum damage to her campaign.

Because of their staunch opposition to much of the panel’s work, many have assumed that its minority Democrats would oppose the majority’s report and instead release their own.

Not allowing Democrats to review the GOP’s work before a report is released would “inevitably” be seen as “the partisan capstone to the select committee’s two-and-a-half-year attack on Secretary Clinton,” Democrats wrote in their Tuesday letter. The committee was formed by a House vote in May of 2014.

Despite the friction on the House panel, lawmakers from the two parties do appear to agree on at least one point: the need to release interview transcripts alongside the report itself.

“I’m going to lay out the transcripts. I’m going to give you the exhibits,” Gowdy said on MSNBC last month. “I don’t want you to take my word for it.”

Four Americans died during the 2012 terror attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The drama was turned into a Hollywood movie this year and has been repeatedly cited by critics of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

— Updated at 2:26 p.m.