What is the purpose, timetable and milestones for the Benghazi Committee?

What is the purpose, timetable and milestones for the Benghazi Committee?

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Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2014 — After first saying that she hoped that House Republicans would not go down the path of another committee on Benghazi, Nancy Pelosi today announced that the following Democrats will join the seven Republicans on the Select Committee:

Elijah Eugene Cummings, U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district. Cummings, who has served since 1996, will be ranking member of the Committee. Cummings is the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is also a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Joint Economic Committee.

Adam Smith, U.S. Representative for Washington’s 9th congressional district. Smith is ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. The House Armed Services committee oversees six subcommittees including: Tactical Air and Land Forces, Military Personnel, Oversight and Investigations, Readiness, Seapower and Projection Forces, Strategic Forces and Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Adam Schiff, U.S. Representative for California’s 28th congressional district. Now in his 7th term in the House, Schiff serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Linda Sanchez, U.S. Representative for California’s 38th Congressional district. Sanchez is Senior Democratic Whip and is in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Sanchez is ranking member on the House Ethics Committee, House Committee on Ways and Means and Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, and the Subcommittee on Oversight.

Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 8th District. Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth is on the House Armed Services Committee, with subcommittee assignments on Tactical Air and Land Forces and Oversight and Investigations and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee assignments, Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs and Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements. Duckworth continues to drill as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Pelosi apparently finalized her decision to appoint Democrats to the panel after meeting with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday to discuss the committee.

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Pelosi has been very vocal in her disappointment in the Committee, calling it nothing more than a “witch-hunt.” She restated that view today, saying that appointing Democrats to the Committee does not mean that she is “applying any validity” to the process.

She says that two Benghazi families have told her they do not want Benghazi reopened, saying, in Pelosi’s words, “Please don’t take us down this path again.”

Pelosi may have received a call from a family member; however, according to a source close to the Benghazi investigation, there are more family members who want the Benghazi Select Committee to go forward than don’t.

Pelosi has questioned the purpose of the Committee and asserted that an all-Republican Committee would result in lopsided and inaccurate findings.

This appears, unfortunately, to be the only force to motivate Pelosi to name the Democratic contingent to join the Committee.

What is the purpose, the timetable and the milestones: What are they hoping to achieve? 

Boehner, who had avoided appointing a committee for months, finally agreed to calls from other Republicans to set a committee after a Freedom of Information Request released emails showing that the White House was involved in framing the narrative, including Susan Rice’s remarks on Sunday morning talk shows, following the attacks.

Pelosi says that what happened is no longer of interest to the American people, who only want to know how to make sure it does not happen again.

Republicans joining chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., are Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the deputy majority whip; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leader in the House’s conservative bloc; Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a military veteran and member of the Intelligence Committee; and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., who is also on the Intelligence Committee and is a deputy chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign committee; Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., who led another investigation of the Sept. 11 Benghazi raid as chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., a former U.S. attorney.

Pompeo has said  that the task of the Committee is to undertake “a fact-based inquiry” and that “I hope we get everybody working together to get to the right set of facts.”

Gowdy is a well respected federal prosecutor and state district attorney is known for being fair and tough in the courtroom. He is respected by both Republicans and Democrats.

“I have no friends to reward and no foes to punish,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re going to go wherever the facts take us. Facts are neither Republican nor Democratic, they are facts.” “If we overplay our hand or we engage in a process that is not fair according to the American people, then we will be punished, as we should be,” Gowdy told Fox’s Chris Wallace.

However, Gowdy’s popularity is not universal:

“To call Gowdy prosecutorial would be an understatement,” The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman wrote. “Uniformly angry and outraged … Gowdy always seemingly on the verge of shouting, he’s so damn mad.”

Gowdy has clearly stated the questions the Committee will address:

Q1. Can you tell me why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi the night that he was killed? Do you know? Does it bother you whether or not you know why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi?

Q2. Do you know why we were the last flag flying in Benghazi, after the British had left and the Red Cross had been bombed?

Q3. Do you know why requests for additional security were denied?

Q4. Do you know why an Ambassador asking for more security days and weeks before he was murdered and those requests went unheeded? Do you know the reason why those requests went unheeded?

Q5. Do you know why no assets were deployed during the siege? And I’ve heard the explanation, which defies logic frankly, that we couldn’t have gotten there in time. But you know they didn’t know when it was going to end. So how can you possibly cite that as an excuse?

Despite Democratic participation, however, many in the party remain opposed to the Committee.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that Republicans have “clearly already decided what the outcome is going to be.”

“I just think we should consider not sanctioning it or treating it as legitimate, because it isn’t,” Wasserman Schutlz said, echoing the response of Pelosi to the Senate Committee.

While strong fault lines remain, Democratic participation at least reduces the likelihood that any Committee findings will be branded as partisan. It provides the possibility, however remote, that the Committee can move away from the partisan politics that so clearly dominate Washington and instead provide answers to the victims of Benghazi and the American people.

We can hope that, regardless of politics, the members of the Committee will approach the investigation with ears open. The answers to these questions really do matter, for the safety of American’s all over the world.

That should be light that guides this committee.

A trip to Twitter shows some of what America is thinking:

Next Up:  The Benghazi Talking Points – Who said what, when and why?

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