For A Serious, Purpose-Driven Select Committee
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When Speaker Boehner finally announced that the murder of four Americans on a 9/11 anniversary warranted an investigation by a Select Committee of the House of Representatives it was only after undeniable evidence of a cover-up emerged –in the form of a long covered-up White House email from within 72 hours of the attacks– and testimony from Brigadier General Robert Lovell that set teeth on edge.
Andrew McCarthy sets the stage for the new Select Committee with his column today, and as I argued on yesterday’s show, McCarthy –the man who successfully prosecuted the Blind Sheik and who has written extensively on radical Islamist terrorist organizations of the sort that attacked in Benghazi that evening– would make a superb choice as chief counsel to the Select Committee. Whomever the chief counsel turns out to be, he or she will need to be a prosecutor with enough authority and steel to keep the proceedings on track and moving toward the key goals: Discovery of what happened –when and why– as well as what did the president know and do and when did he do it and what did Hillary know and do and when did she do it?
The facts, please, just the facts.
The Select Committee needs a chair –Trey Gowdy?– who is a prosecutor, and he or she needs to be surrounded by serious lawyers and sharp minds –Representatives Jason Chaffetz, Ron DeSantis, Devin Nunes, Mike Pompeo, Rob Wittman come to mind and there are many others– and represented to the country by a competent, very serious spokesman of the sort used to responding to bold attempts by the left, and especially by the Manhattan-Beltway media elite palace guard of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to shield their principals from accountability for the collapse of our Libyan policy and the resulting murder of the four Americans. My friend Ric Grenell did this job for John Bolton at the U.N. and understands this issue as well as anyone and he would be a superb guide for the country to the Select Committee’s doings.
My interview with Representative Nunes yesterday was both encouraging and somewhat disquieting. The transcript is here.
It was encouraging because Nunes revealed not only that he would be on the Select Committee –and he is a smart, serious work horse and not a show horse of a Congressman– and because he revealed that Speaker Boehner has been planning this for some time and the evidence of the cover-up was a trigger, not a first push. Thus events should follow in rapid succession.
The interview was disquieting, however, because it contained well-known Capitol Hill hedges about secrecy and witnesses and the pacing of the investigation. The staffing of the Select Committee –Chair, members and staff– are key but so is the resolve to move quickly and put the public record in order quickly. Representative Nunes warned –rightly– that much will have to be done in secret and there is no denying that, but much must be done to set the stage (reset the stage, really), and establish the base narrative of the timeline for the public. So many different committees have held so many hearings that even good reporters like Slate’s Dave Weigel are more than a little confused about the importance of the Rhodes email.
Weigel would ordinarily sink his teeth into such a revelation, but instead assumed a “nothing new here” pose. What’s new is that we now know that the White House held back the Rhodes email, and what we don’t know is how it got to State, and we don’t know what else has been held back by the White House that the State FOIA officer didn’t have. We also now know from HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes that Rhodes was in the Situation Room all that night long, and from General Lovell that everyone knew it was a terrorist attack from the earliest hours it began. Rhodes thus knowingly circulated a misleading memo intended to cover-up what happened and to confuse the narrative, which worked as we know from Candy Crowley’s misguided and deeply wrong intervention in the presidential debate on the very subject.
What else has been covered up, and who else conspired to keep the truth from the American people? That’s the job of the Select Committee. It can begin immediately with public hearings on what we already know, by long conversations with witnesses about the deployment of U.S. assets in the region, via detailed explorations of the fall of Qaddafi and its aftermath, about Ambassador Stevens’ strategy and tactics for rebuilding Libya and why he went to Benghazi that night, about the riots in Cairo and the video at the heart of the Administration’s absurd cover story.
There is much and more to review, order, and organize in the public’s mind, the execution of which will set-up the key later hearings and testimony from White House and State Department staff, past and still employed, as well as from willing members of the media and think tank world who have studied the events and the terrible job the media has done in explaining this debacle.
It isn’t the time for another House Leadership failure to understand that the modern world needs a story line and more detail, not less. It needs more hearings, not fewer, more witnesses –including repeat witnesses– and competent spokesmen with a media strategy to combat the already underway disinformation campaign being waged by the Administration’s water carriers. It may take a few weeks to staff up and set the stage for the first round of hearings, but come the week of July 7, Chairman Gowdy ought to be bringing down the gavel on three days of hearings a week for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of this. Two months to organize; two months to execute, two months to write the first report.
When the Senate turns over to GOP hands in the November, plans can expand to include a Joint Committee of the House and Senate if the White House and Team Clinton continue to stonewall on what the president and the then-Secretary of State knew and what they did and did not do that night and the days following the attack and murders.
The statute of limitations for perjury and suborning perjury is five years. Witnesses before the Select Committee won’t have Eric Holder and his team of masons to protect them from lies under oath or suborning perjury from those witnesses.
If the Committee has the right the Chair, the right members, the right chief counsel and the right spokesman, the American people will finally get the answers they deserve and in a timely fashion. As will the families of the victims. But it requires the Speaker to be decisive and the new Chair to be resolute. Watch those spaces.
And keep this in mind: All the nay-saying by the Beltway sharpies, all the giggles from the president’s kept men and women in the White House press corps, all the repeated dismissals by paid staffers invested in a President Hillary won’t matter a bit to the American people if they are told the truth. Be bold in seeking and telling the truth and all will be well. Be bold.