More than a week after the announcement of a House select committee to investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Democrats — who have dismissed the panel as a partisan political witch hunt — have yet to formally say the extent to which they plan to participate in the probe.
Democrats, from Congress to the White House, have insisted that thousands of documents have been turned over in the course of multiple investigations and hearings on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
“I think it’s a hunting mission for a lynch mob, actually. I think that’s what’s going on,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, announced the seven GOP members of the committee more than a week ago. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose request for equal representation on the committee was turned aside relatively early in the process, still hasn’t made a decision on who in her caucus might take part.
Democrats would have five slots on the panel.
“We want to show the public how unfair this process is,” the California Democrat told CNN. “We’ll have to make a decision as to what the best way is to showcase their unfairness.”
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Soon after the announcement, some members of Mrs. Pelosi’s caucus sounded a solid drumbeat against Democratic participation, arguing that they didn’t want to legitimize a process and a topic they felt was being treated unfairly. Mrs. Pelosi and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, also tried to use Rep. Darrell E. Issa’s subpoenaing Secretary of State John F. Kerry last week as an example of how Republicans’ pledge of an impartial, centralized investigation was already being compromised. Mr. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was not named to the select committee by Mr. Boehner.
But members of Mrs. Pelosi’s caucus have also pointed out that a boycott would mean freeing Republicans to subpoena people such as National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to testify before a panel with no sympathetic members.
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, even circulated the idea of appointing only one member to the panel in a form of protest that also wouldn’t leave the party completely in the dark.
Rep. Alan Grayson, the fiery Florida Democrat who once said during the health care debate that the Republican health care plan was for people to “die quickly” if they get sick, said he would “absolutely” serve as the lone Democratic member — and pledged to be the GOP’s worst nightmare if he was.
“I would be their worst, worst nightmare. I’d be their worst and last nightmare,” he told MSNBC’s Al Sharpton. “Somebody’s got to tell the truth. Somebody’s got to tell the truth.”
Republicans, however, say they are just as bullish on getting to the truth. More than three dozen GOP senators wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, last week asking him to appoint a similar committee in the Senate.
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Republicans aren’t likely to let Mrs. Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential contender who was secretary of state at the time of the attack, off the hook. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that Mrs. Clinton is trying to “sweep Benghazi under the rug” and pointed to a heated exchange during a January 2013 Senate hearing on the subject between Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican.
“When Sen. Johnson tried to ask her questions about Benghazi, and her response is, ‘What difference does it make?’ I can assure you that that will be an issue if she does decide to run,” Mr. Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Party figures — including former President Bill Clinton — have defended Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the attack in recent days.
“I really think she’s answered all of the questions about Benghazi. She is the one who called for an independent investigation,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “And of course, her frustration — when she said it doesn’t matter — was because she wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And it was the Republicans that were blocking funding for embassy security. That’s why she was frustrated.”