No sooner had The House Select Committee on Benghazi concluded an intense, 11-hour Q&A of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton then journalists rushed to interview Committee Chair Trey Gowdy asking a very basic question: “What new things did you learn today?”
Totally flat-footed, Gowdy said, “Uh… I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning — well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already. We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony, I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she testified.”
Searching for something more, Gowdy added that he would “have to go back and look at the transcript” to better be able to answer the question.
Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein was not as unresponsive.
“You have to go back to Joe McCarthy,” Bernstein told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “[and] the House Un-American Committee to find a process as abusive in a congressional hearing as this one was. I think this was a reckless and outrageous hearing.”
Cooper turned to former presidential advisor to Presidents Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen, and asked the same question: “Did anything new come out of [Clinton’s testimony]?”
“No, not in terms of information. …
“I think a great number of other Americans – and I’m in this group – will find that these hearings were very, very disturbing… I can’t remember a secretary of state in modern times who is ever grilled and badgered the way she was tonight. For 11 hours she’s been up there in these hearings and it was just an unprecedented kind of grilling. I hope we never see one like this again.”
Particularly disturbing was the line of questioning by Ohio Representative and Freedom Caucus member, Jim Jordan, who began by questioning Clinton about who was in charge of separating her personal emails from her work emails – all of which were held on a private server – then literally, hounded the former secretary of state to name the “search terms” that were used in looking for work-related emails.
JORDAN: Can you answer today what were the search terms?
CLINTON: The search terms were everything you could imagine that might be related to anything but they also went through every single e-mail.
JORDAN: But that’s not answering the question. What were the search terms means terms, what terms did you use…
CLINTON: I did not…
JORDAN: What date parameters, what date did you start, what was the end date and e-mails in between there we’ll look at?
CLINTON: Well, congressman, I asked my attorneys to oversee the process. I did not look over their shoulder. I did not dictate how they would do it. I did not ask what they were doing and how they maybe…
JORDAN: But you don’t know? You don’t know what terms they used to determine which ones for your e-mail, which one the state department gotten there for we might get?
CLINTON: You know, the state department had between 90 and 95 percent of all the ones that were work related. They were already on the system.
“I think he was clearly the worst,” Former Federal Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin said, “the most unprofessional, the most misleading, the most really demeaning to the Congress in terms of his questioning, you know, really actively misleading about the evidence that was present.
“…the questioning at first was actually about something important,” Toobin added. “It was about the policy in Libya. It was about whether the protection was adequate? But towards the end when Representative Jordan really went after Hillary Clinton, it turned into this really repulsive spectacle that I think will really show very poorly for the Congress.”
The day before Clinton testified, former Republican Representative, current MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough said, “What I would urge my colleagues in the media to do, is hold your fire and stop assuming.”
Two days later, Scarborough said: “A very bad day for Gowdy and the GOP.”
Conservative and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan had a different take. “Mrs. Clinton was “actress-y.”
That’s how Noonan describes someone who came prepared, answering questions in a calm, even-tempered manner. If Hillary Clinton pulled off an 11-hour “act” then Trey Gowdy played the angry and anguished Hamlet to the hilt.
Last week I wrote about the committee’s work. After hearing Chairman Gowdy spell out, on CBS’s Face the Nation, how he was interested in learning “…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” about what happened in Benghazi, I was prepared for a fair-minded search for that truth. What we got was a handful of “prosecutors” participating in something akin to a murder trial with Clinton as defendant.
Nonetheless, some important questions remain unanswered. Why was there such a disconnect between Ambassador Stevens’ consistent calls for security and State Department action?
Clinton responded that ambassadors in the field contact those officials with the knowledge and expertise to address whatever concerns arise. If that’s true, then why hasn’t the committee called witnesses from the security team? And why haven’t we heard about that from any committee members?
However, committee members spent more time pursuing Sidney Blumenthal’s unsolicited emails to Clinton, and who separated her work-related emails from her personal emails than anything of real substance.
In his opening statement, Gowdy said, “We are going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four men who lost their lives.”
Really? That’s not what I saw.
While we all await a final report, I remain deeply troubled by the committee’s work in general and Chairman Gowdy’s misrepresented motives. He and his committee have a lot of work to do to justify taxpayer money and credibility.
How in hell is Paul Ryan going to corral these people so they resemble an intelligent, unified group of representatives worthy of our trust?