In the 19+ months since the armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, the standing committees in both chambers of Congress with oversight jurisdiction over one aspect or another have held hearings in an effort to uncover what happened before, during, and after the terrorist attack.
The effort has not been concentrated into one body, the investigation has been all over the place, and the fact that each member of the committee, both majority and minority, is allowed to use his allotted time in whatever manner he chooses, whether to put questions to witnesses appearing before the panel or to pontificate, sometimes berate the hearing itself, it has been impossible to provide a cohesive narrative of the events leading up to the attack. Impossible to learn what is and was known during the attack itself, both in Benghazi and the White House, and to assess recommendations to deter such an attack from occurring again. Because of that, politics has filled that role; confusing or at times inaccurate descriptions, explanations, often times opinion-colored, have been the report the American people have received for the most part.
This will no longer be the case, for the Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) has finally decided to corral the investigation; on May 2nd Boehner announced that he would have the House vote to establish a select committee in order to have a more cohesive investigation, and to provide Congress with the tools it does not ordinarily possess to compel witnesses, the Administration in particular, to provide true and accurate testimony and all pertinent documents and electronic transmissions.
On Monday we learned that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has been appointed by the Speaker to head the committee. A federal prosecutor before he was elected to the House in 2010, that experience garnered from 1994 to 2000 will serve him in good stead. A select committee does not proceed in the same manner as the standing committees with oversight mandate but is the Congressional version of a Grand Jury, and in his lead role Rep. Gowdy will be a prosecutor, not a Member of Congress per se. He will have the power to subpoena and compel testimony, documents, and electronic transmissions, the penalty for not complying to be much more serious than a Contempt of Congress vote; he will go to the Judiciary to enforce them.
If this special committee proceeds along the same lines as previous panels, the Members appointed will not be allotted a specific amount of time, alternating back and forth between the majority and minority, in order to put questions to witnesses. They will each be allowed to make opening statements (be forewarned many of these will be of the pontificating or obfuscating variety), but then they sit and listen in the same manner as members of a Grand Jury. While the Democratic defenders and the press will work their spin, as a matter of fact they began it the moment the Speaker’s announcement was released, that will be done outside the hearing room. The more important and accurate information will be uncovered, disclosed inside that room.
As a junior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Gowdy is one of the last members to be recognized for his five minutes during any hearing of the committee. It conducted the very first investigative hearing into the events in Benghazi that horrible night when a United States Ambassador, the personal representative of the President, was assassinated and three other Americans were murdered.
Mr. Gowdy used his five minutes to elucidate on the definitive statements made by Amb. Susan Rice and White House spokesman Jay Carney in their blaming the terrorist attack on a video, a charge debunked early on no matter they and the Administration continue to put it forward. Trey Gowdy, with his keen legal mind and clear, concise manner of speaking, made it comprehensible to anyone listening that those two people, at the very least, were not telling the American people the truth of the matter. He ended his comments with these key nine words: “I want to know why we were lied to.”
On our behalf, he will finally have the ability to learn why.