Chief Prosecutor and Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Trey Gowdy in grilling Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton up for lunch and late into the evening for nearly eleven hours oftestimony tipped his hand as to the Committee’s real agenda when he said to Secretary Clinton that she could not avoid answering his questions “in this court.”
The morning session resembled much more a straight prosecution of the former Secretary of State with the narrative that Clinton was AWOL from being involved in the military security of the Benghazi temporary consulate. They also pushed the narrative that long-time Clinton friend and ally Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails showing up in Mrs. Clinton’s personal e-mail in box and her personal decisions to sometimes have staff check into ideas Blumenthal offered meant he was her most influential Libya policy advisor. This is not so.
First of all seven previous committees have closely examined the Bengahzi attack, and Clinton’s involvement or culpability in permitting the four Americans to be killed through her lack of due diligence. None of them found any evidence of such criminal or incompetent negligence. In point of fact, those committees, including some chaired by Republicans, specifically did not find Clinton culpable in that manner at all; sustaining her and the Departments of State, Defense, and the CIA.
A separate Accountability Review Board led by long respected Admiral Mullin and Thomas Pickering, completely non-partisan, made 29 recommendations to bolster the security of our diplomatic missions abroad where security is challenged. Before Clinton left the Department of State she committed herself to taking up every single one of those recommendations. Secretary of State John Kerry continues to implement them at the Department of State.
Much of the day Democrats provided continued reality checks following Republican member’s introduction of what they said was new evidence. There are some new e-mails in her private server that are becoming available, but they tend to show the sort of personal behind the scenes e-mails we all often get from friends or confidants. None of that today altered the 11 reports of the previous committees. How many of us could sit before the nation on television and defend everything we have said in private in our personal e-mails? Or those things said by people we know in e-mailing us?
Since the committee provided questions in the manner of a prosecutor seeking a conviction, as in criminal court, it is important to note that what was both Clinton’s and Democratic minority members of this Republican led committee common refrain was what lawyers call in objecting to a line of questioning that is repetitive of earlier questioning. A given lawyer will say “asked and answered.” If so, a judge will say objection sustained and questioning then is diverted to something new. In essence, Democrats and Secretary Clinton continually pointed out that nearly all of what was examined had been examined by multiple committees in depth before.
Second, since Republicans have a one vote majority the setting of rules for the committee’s operation, the Chairman, Trey Gowdy, a Republican, has the most influence over rules made that a given committee will operate by. This makes for a better working relationship.
Basic Congressional procedure has previously permitted the minority party to be aware of depositions for future witnesses before a committee, and to at least witness questions asked by the Chairman and his designees. In many cases thus far this has not been allowed Democrats. Documents about completed depositions and interviews have been made available strictly after the fact. Democrats intent on wanting to actually look into this yet again can’t or aren’t allowed to choose who is interviewed. This is huge.
Again in a courtroom criminal trial, in order to secure due process of law for an accused as Secretary Clinton undoubtedly is, there is a pre-trial discovery process where what a prosecution team could decide to present something and the opposition or defense at least is aware of it.
Thus far Gowdy and Company have not bothered or shown any interest in bringing the CIA, and Department of Defense officials to join her and confirm or deny her version of events. The other committees did that and concluded she was not lying or derelict in her duties or incompetent.
Republican members pointed to Clinton’s statement to the Libyan President where she told him this was a Terrorist attack, while Jay Carney at the White House, and Susan Rice on Sunday talk shows said it was a video circulating through Capitals in the Middle East. The next day the President of the United States in the Rose Garden told the nation that this was indeed a directed Terrorist attack on that compound.
Clinton, on these points at the very end of day of hard questioning explained yet again that when Libya provided via the FBI as well the camera video of the actual attack, a September 11th event, on September 18th it became obvious that the attack was due to a well planned terrorist attack. Clinton and Obama then did adopt that new view. Previously,against the backdrop of other embassy attacks in several places on our embassies that were due to an anti- Muslim video, these two counter narratives were both present. Some intelligence officers were convinced it was this video that was the main cause while others held Clinton’s initial view.
As a historian who has examined real-time reactive crisis decision making from Pearl Harbor, to Reagan’s failure with 244 U.S. Marines killed when terrorists employed a truck bomb for the first time, to the Nairobi disaster in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole, and now Benghazi among hundreds of attack we see each decade; all involve the actual historical actors who make these attacks.
I’ve previously written pieces using the great statement of General George Pickett when pointing out during recriminations among Confederate Generals as to why they lost the Battle of Gettysburg:
“I think the Union Army had something to do with it.”
In this case of the Benghazi attack, let me now say emphatically “I think the Terrorists had something to do with it.”
Much of the questioning late in the day was an effort to smear Clinton and place the blame for all that took place upon her. In effect, it was Clinton who killed Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans. This argument was not sustained in the seven previous committees and their reports, and the Accountability Review Board on this incident.
The Review Board did sharply criticize two State Department Security experts who did not accede to every one of the Ambassador’s security requests. The present committee still shows no interest at all in questioning these individuals further.
Tammy Duckworth had the very best questions all day long. She is the Illinois Congresswoman, a Democrat who lost both legs as a pilot of one of our helicopters in Iraq. Clinton was able to actually address specifics of how a number of security upgrades were made prior to the attack. It was her pertinent questions to what we all need to know in examining the actual tragedy and not some political agenda to smear the former Secretary.
Duckworth really got to the point by asking what the Defense Department in particular is doing to offer a more muscular response quickly to these very necessary diplomatic postings that are in harm’s way.
That IS pertinent to where we are now, some three years after the Benghazi attack. Thus far the Committee has not called Secretary of State John Kerry to update this now eighth committee with a charge from outgoing House Speaker John Boehner with an unlimited timeline to continue to inquire. Why?
I think honest readers will know the answer.
The inquisition into Clinton’s culpability commenced shortly before ten a.m. Eastern time and concluded around 9 p.m. an unprecedented single witness appearance for its length and where eight Republicans mercilessly went after Secretary Clinton.