House Democrats push to end congressional probe of Benghazi attacks

WASHINGTON -- Democrats in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are demanding that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) end his “partisan” investigation of the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, which cost the lives of four Americans, including that of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Led by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the 17 lawmakers say Issa has made inflammatory accusations and cost the Defense Department time and money with his investigation.

In a letter published Wednesday, Democrats attacked what they called Issa’s “reckless pattern of launching wholly unfounded accusations on national television.”

On Thursday they released a two-minute video on YouTube of Issa’s more controversial statements, including ones in which he accused former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of reducing security in Libya and suggested she ordered former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down” during the attack.

The contentious relationship between the committee’s Republicans and Democrats was heightened this month in tense hearings for the panel’s other major investigation: the inquiry into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. Those tensions culminated in a highly publicized confrontation between Cummings and Issa, in which Issa cut off microphones as Cummings was trying to speak.

Democrats are also pointing to the cost of the Benghazi investigation, which “is estimated to be in the millions of dollars,” according to a March 13 letter from Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), criticizing the redundant investigations led by his and the Oversight Committee.

But House Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill defended the investigation, saying that it could have gone faster had they received the “cooperation that we would have liked to have from the administration.”

The Democrats on the committee, he said, are “desperate to stop our investigation and try to stop more damaging information [on Benghazi] from coming to the public’s attention.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also weighed in with a statement Thursday, saying that “Democrats seem to be more interested in protecting the Obama administration than they are in getting the truth.” He added, “If Republicans win a Senate majority in 2014, one of the first things I will insist on is hearings that actually get to the bottom of what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi attack.”

lalita.clozel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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PoliticsDarrell E IssaElijah E. CummingsRepublican PartyU.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government ReformLindsey O. GrahamLeon Panetta
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