WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on the select committee to investigate the Benghazi terror attack that killed four Americans to be bipartisan.
“If this review is to be fair, it must be truly bipartisan. The panel should be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans as is done on the House Ethics Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday. “It should require that witnesses are called and interviewed, subpoenas are issued, and information is shared on a bipartisan basis. Only then could it be fair.”
House Speaker John Boehner announced last week he would create a select committee to examine the response to the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Legislative aides said a vote to authorize the panel is expected sometime this week. On Monday, Boehner said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., would head the investigation.
Pelosi cited the previous reviews that have already taken place.
“There has been a review at the State Department by the Accountability Review Board. There were two bipartisan reviews in the United States Senate, and four partisan reviews in the House of Representatives,” Pelosi stated.
White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed Monday that the administration always cooperates with “legitimate” congressional oversight — including sending witnesses to hearings and providing bipartisan committees with documents. He declined to characterize whether the Obama administration would view a House select committee as legitimate or illegitimate. But he said that what Republicans have said about the committee “certainly casts doubt” about its legitimacy.
Carney also suggested the select committee was unnecessary. “One thing this Congress is not short on is investigations into what happened before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi,” he told reporters.
Boehner and other Republicans accuse the administration of misleading the American people after the attack to protect Obama in the final weeks of his re-election campaign, and of stonewalling congressional investigators ever since. They pointed to emails released only last week as further evidence of White House wrongdoing.
Republicans have pointed a finger at one passage in particular among the 40 or so emails obtained last week by the watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request. Three days after the attack, Ben Rhodes, then the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, stressed the goal of underscoring “that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader policy failure.”
The email was written the Friday before then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday television news programs and explained the Benghazi attack as a protest over a YouTube video that mocked the Islamic prophet Mohammed that was hijacked by extremists. Administration officials later changed their description of the attack and said references to a protest were inaccurate.
Asked if Rhodes’ email constituted proof of administration wrongdoing, Hoyer said: “That’s baloney.” He said the memo largely mirrored CIA language and joked that it must be shocking that administration officials receive suggestions on what they’ll say before they appear on national news programs. “I was astounded that any White House would do that,” he said.
However, Hoyer left open the small possibility of Democratic involvement in the select panel. He said it “ought to be an equally balanced committee, so that this is not an exercise in partisanship. We’ll see whether that’s the case.”
In 2005, most Democrats boycotted a Republican-led select committee examining the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Democrats had sought an independent investigation.
Establishment of the select committee is almost a formality given the GOP’s control of the House. Democrats controlling the Senate have shown no interest in launching a similar probe.
“With four of our countrymen killed at the hands of terrorists, the American people want answers, accountability and justice,” Boehner said Monday in a statement.
He called Gowdy, a former prosecutor in his second term in Congress, “as dogged, focused and serious-minded as they come.”
The committee will have “the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts,” Boehner said.
Separately, the State Department said Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry would not appear before the House Oversight Committee on May 21 to talk about Benghazi — as demanded in a subpoena from the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry planned to travel to Mexico at that time and officials would discuss alternative options with the committee.
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