- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2015

Democrats on the Benghazi special committee criticized the panel Thursday for planning a trip to Europe as part of their investigation — an announcement Republicans said jeopardizes the safety of the lawmakers who will be traveling overseas to investigate.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Fox News reported that the FBI has expanded its probe of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails, looking into whether the former secretary of state lied to federal investigators trying to ensure that issues surrounding the Benghazi attacks had been thoroughly investigated and open-records requests by Congress and citizens groups complied with.

Democrats on the Benghazi committee, who have dismissed it a partisan sham for months, said the trip is going to be “lavish and expensive,” and will include “Italy and other European destinations.”

The cost of the trip was unclear, but Democrats said the overall price tag for the Benghazi probe has now topped $5 million.

“In the 11-hour marathon hearing with Secretary Clinton, Republicans showed the world that the Benghazi Select Committee is a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign — and that their net came up empty,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and the committee’s ranking member. “The Republicans will never resuscitate the credibility of this committee, and they certainly won’t do so by traveling to Italy on the taxpayers’ dime.”

The GOP countered by saying Democrats are the ones wasting taxpayer money by doing everything they can to undermine the committee’s work.

“These politically-motivated Democrats have now sunk to a new low by disregarding the safety and security of members of Congress traveling to military and intelligence centers overseas,” committee spokesman Matt Wolking said.

“If they truly don’t understand the relevance of AFRICOM and military facilities potentially assigned to respond to terrorist attacks on America’s diplomatic outposts, that only demonstrates their own willful ignorance and lack of interest in gathering all the information necessary to complete this serious and thorough investigation,” he said.

Mr. Wolking also said committee Democrats are “obsessed” with defending Mrs. Clinton.

She testified before the panel last month in an 11-hour hearing, and continues to face questions over the private email server she chose to set up out of her home while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.

Citing “intelligence sources familiar with the ongoing case,” Fox News reported Thursday that the FBI is “exploring whether multiple statements violate a federal false statements statute.”

“Fox News is told agents are looking at U.S. Code 18, Section 1001, which pertains to ‘materially false’ statements given either in writing, orally or through a third party. Violations also include pressuring a third party to conspire in a cover-up. Each felony violation is subject to five years in prison,” said the report by Catherine Herridge.

The statute raises the same issues that landed Martha Stewart a federal prison term in an insider-trading probe, according to Fox.

Nearly seven in 10 voters said they think Mrs. Clinton did something either unethical or illegal when she set up the system to conduct government business, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The State Department is making monthly releases of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, and many of them have been retroactively labeled classified. She testified to the panel that there was nothing marked classified on her emails, either sent or received.

She turned over the emails she deemed work-related in December 2014 - nearly two years after she left office and after the panel had started its investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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