Benghazi, Conclusion

On Face the Nation Sunday (Oct. 19), the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy, defended his committee’s work despite two House Republicans who publicly stated that the purpose of the panel was to place blame on former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her actions or in-actions regarding the attacks leading to the deaths of four Americans.

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Gowdy told his Republican colleagues to “…shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done…”

However, a more credible source regarding the work of the committee has come forward.

On October 12, CNN reported that “Maj. Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. That new focus flipped a broad-based probe of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, into what Podliska described as ‘a partisan investigation.’ ”

“I’m scared. I’m going up against powerful people in Washington,” Podliska told CNN journalist Jake Tapper. “I was fired for conducting an objective, non-partisan, thorough investigation. This has become a partisan investigation.”

Podliska does believe that “Hillary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do. We do not, however, need to shift resources to hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton. We need to de-emphasize and, in some cases, drop the investigation on different agencies, different organizations and different individuals.

“ ‘I knew that we needed to get to the truth to the victims’ families,” Podliska said. “And the victims’ families, they deserve the truth — whether or not Hillary Clinton was involved, whether or not other individuals were involved. The victims’ families are not going to get the truth and that’s the most unfortunate thing about this.’ …

“Podliska alleges,” CNN says, “that the committee’s staff director told him he was fired for three reasons: using work email to send a social invitation to colleagues, assigning an ‘unauthorized project’ to an intern and allegedly putting classified information on an unclassified system. Podliska, an intelligence officer who was hired for his expertise with the intelligence community, strongly denies the latter. He also disputes the legitimacy of the other two reasons cited to him by the committee, in particular assigning any ‘unauthorized projects’ to interns.”

“I would just like to state,” Podliska added, “that I intend to vote for the Republican nominee in 2016. I do not support Hillary Clinton for president.”

Responding to Podliska’s charges, Gowdy said, “Because I do not know him, and cannot recall ever speaking to him, I can say for certain he was never instructed by me to focus on Clinton, nor would he be a credible person to speak on my behalf. I am equally confident his supervisor, General (Retired Lt. Gen. Dana) Chipman, did not direct him to focus on Clinton.”

The latest committee investigating Benghazi came about after the discovery of Clinton’s private email server used while she was Secretary of State. In that regard, I criticized Clinton for not following her own advice to State Department workers to use a government server.

However, there are interesting comparisons between Benghazi and independent counsel Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation. In Whitewater, Starr and his investigators found no credible evidence of misconduct by either Bill or Hillary Clinton regarding Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, or Vince Foster. In fact, the Office of Independent Counsel was in the process of winding down its investigation when a late night phone call reignited their investigation. In one of several conversations I had before her death last year, former Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Jo Ann Harris, told me, “When Tripp made that phone call to the Washington office, the whole place just lit up. It just rescued their investigation.”

At the end of a multi-year investigation, Robert Ray and the Office of Independent Counsel “determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either [the] president or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.”

Similarly, after eight separate investigations, a State Department Accountability Review Board, and 17 months of investigation by Gowdy’s select committee, the only issue to emerge thus far is that Clinton utilized a private email server, something that was both legal and known by State Department officials.

Just yesterday, the Democrats on the select committee released their own 124-page interim report on their investigation. The executive summary of that report detailed some interesting facts:

“…Carly Fiorina stated that Secretary Clinton ‘has blood on her hands,’ Mike Huckabee accused her of ‘ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,’ Senator Rand Paul stated that ‘Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,’ and Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, ‘Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?’

“In stark contrast to these baseless political attacks,” Democratic committee members write, “the 54 individuals who have now been interviewed by the Select Committee have identified:

• no evidence that Secretary Clinton ordered the military to stand down on the night of the attacks;

• no evidence that Secretary Clinton personally approved or ordered a reduction of security in Benghazi prior to the attacks;

• no evidence that Secretary Clinton pressed the United States into supporting the United Nations campaign in Libya under false pretenses;

• no evidence that Secretary Clinton or her aides oversaw an operation at the State Department to destroy or scrub embarrassing documents; and

• no evidence that Secretary Clinton or any other U.S. official directed or authorized the U.S. Mission in Benghazi to transfer weapons from Libya to another country.”

As a matter of fairness, however, I will reserve final judgment on the committee’s work until after they have issued their final report.

Hillary Clinton is set to testify before the Benghazi panel on October 22.

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