- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2016

Democrats demanded Monday that Congress cancel the special investigation into the Benghazi terrorist attack and accused committee Chairman Trey Gowdy of straying into dangerous political territory while searching for a reason to continue its probe.

Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, ignited the round of fire by saying the Select Committee on Benghazi would be willing to hear from an anonymous Air Force member who said in a radio interview last week that he and his team could have responded in time to save some of the four Americans killed in the 2012 attack.

Democrats said the committee’s investigation, which has stretched to two years, is running on fumes and needs to be wrapping up rather than pursuing new leads.

“Republicans are chasing anonymous callers to radio shows in the hopes of finding something — anything — to justify the tremendous time and cost associated with this fruitless effort,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The fight over the Benghazi investigation is intensifying as the presidential election nears and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on whose watch the attacks occurred, is poised to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Republicans say Democrats have been trying for years to scuttle the probe, partly to protect Mrs. Clinton’s presidential chances, while playing little constructive roles in getting to the bottom of the events of Sept. 11, 2012.

Democrats say the Benghazi probe hasn’t advanced the public’s understanding beyond what several other investigations had found: that there was questionable attention to security in Benghazi but little could have been done on the night of the attack to help the Americans under fire from terrorists.

But the probe had one major effect: It helped expose Mrs. Clinton’s secret email system that hid her official communications from the public for six years.

On Monday, a conservative legal group asked a federal judge to order Mrs. Clinton to be deposed over her role in creating that email system, which she maintained at her home in New York, rather than using a State.gov account.

“Mrs. Clinton’s testimony will help the courts determine whether her email practices thwarted the Freedom of Information Act,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement after his group filed the request with Judge Royce C. Lamberth in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Obama administration is in the tricky position of having to defend Mrs. Clinton’s actions, even though top State Department officials have said she violated policy.

Democrats, though, say Mrs. Clinton’s public testimony last year before the committee exonerated her and that continuing the congressional probe is a waste.

In a letter to Mr. Gowdy on Monday, Democrats on the select committee said Republicans expanded the investigation after failing to trap Mrs. Clinton and that the Defense Department is right to object to another series of requests for interviews and information.

“By dragging out the investigation so close to the presidential election, demanding that the Defense Department waste countless hours and taxpayer funds tracking down individuals who call into Sean Hannity’s radio show or post political messages on Facebook, and threatening to subpoena military service members who are serving our nation overseas, your actions have damaged the credibility of the select committee beyond repair,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, said in a letter.

Responding to the accusations from the anonymous Air Force member, the Democrats released a partial transcript from one of the investigative interviews in which the Republicans’ own chief counsel, retired Army Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, seemed to approve of the Defense Department’s actions that night.

Gen. Chipman, though, said in a statement released Monday by the committee that investigators need to go where the evidence leads them.

“I agree with Chairman Gowdy. If some witnesses refer the committee to other witnesses, the responsible thing to do is interview them,” the general said. “The committee has an obligation to the American people to determine what can and cannot be substantiated, so if an individual makes public allegations about Benghazi, the committee should interview that person.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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