Following the admission by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi had been established and used to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sent a letter to the Committee’s Chairman, Trey Gowdy, and Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings, calling on them to establish fair rules to begin to reassure the public the investigation is being conducted impartially and make its activities more transparent.
House rules forbid using official resources for campaign or political purposes. The prohibition applies to “any campaign or political undertaking,” including campaigns other than those for a member’s own re-election and covering when official resources are used to oppose a candidate for another office, such as the presidency. When McCarthy said that the result of the Committee’s formation and work was that Clinton’s polling “numbers are dropping” and that she was no longer “unbeatable,” he implied a violation of these rules.
“Majority Leader McCarthy’s statements raise fundamental questions about the improper use of official resources by the Committee,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder wrote in the letter. “These significant concerns have led to several complaints to the Office of Congressional Ethics and to a possible court case. They raise questions about the ongoing viability of the Committee.”
Majority Leader McCarthy is not the only Republican to suggest that the Committee has been used for political means. Senior Republican officials also recently told The New York Times that Speaker Boehner had a longstanding interest in the Benghazi attack and that “Mrs. Clinton’s emails gave him a way to keep the issue alive and to cause political problems for her campaign.” Rep. Richard Hanna added in a recent interview, “I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people, and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
If the Committee is to continue, rules must be put in place to require that both parties are given equal opportunity to question all witnesses as well as to fully review all pertinent material. Previously, Republican Committee members have interviewed witnesses without including, or even notifying, Democratic members. The Committee must become more transparent. The Committee should vote on the timely release of every transcribed interview of a witness if any member requests a vote. If a partial transcript is leaked, then the full, redacted transcript must be released—members should not be able to continue to release out of context excerpts to advance a political position.
“The Committee should have adopted fair rules earlier this year, but failed to do so,” Bookbinder wrote. “Failing to establish evenhanded and non-partisan rules will taint—even further—the Committee’s investigation and further corroborate the existing evidence that the Committee’s resources have been improperly used for political purposes.”