Former prosecutor, military vet: A look at Benghazi panel

AP News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2015 11:13 AM
Former prosecutor, military vet: A look at Benghazi panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the House Select Committee on Benghazi holds its first public hearing in nearly 10 months, the spotlight will focus on a sole witness — Hillary Rodham Clinton, former first lady and senator, secretary of state and presidential contender.

But the panel's 12 members — seven Republicans and five Democrats — also will draw scrutiny, especially with complaints from Democrats and some Republicans that the investigation is a partisan-driven effort to undermine the Democratic front-runner.

Committee Republicans have strongly denied that assertion and will seek to prove that they are just after facts about the twin attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, including an ambassador. Democrats — some of whom have called for disbanding the panel — will be expected to try and protect Clinton and the Obama administration's record.

A look at members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi ahead of Thursday's hearing:

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CHAIRMAN TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.:

Gowdy, 51, is a third-term tea partyer and former prosecutor. He is well-liked among members of the committee, but Democrats have criticized him for deliberately slowing the panel's timeline — now expected to run into the 2016 presidential election year — and spending too much time focused on obtaining emails from the private server that Clinton used while in office.

Republicans have raised questions about thousands of emails that she has deleted on grounds that they were private in nature, as well as other messages that have surfaced independently of Clinton and the State Department.

Gowdy has noted repeatedly that the panel has already interviewed more than 50 people, and "not a single one has been named Clinton." He pledged to be fair during Clinton's testimony.

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REP. SUSAN BROOKS, R-Ind.:

A former Bush administration appointee who served six years as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Brooks says she is focused on "the State Department's fundamental responsibility" to protect those who serve abroad. She says she wants to ensure diplomatic security has changed since the attacks.

Brooks, 55, said in an Oct. 14 interview that the reasons for calling Clinton before the panel are not political.

"She just happened to be leading the State Department at this time, and it would be wrong of us not to ask her questions," Brooks said. "And she has been ready to answer questions."

Like Gowdy, she said Clinton's testimony is just one of many. "The investigation does not end next week," she said.

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REP. JIM JORDAN, R-Ohio:

The hard-charging conservative has defended the panel's mission, saying it has tens of thousands of new documents and has interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses that no other committees have interviewed.

"It's always been about the truth. Chairman Gowdy has always focused on that. And that's what we're going to continue to do," he said on Fox News Sunday on Oct. 12.

A lawyer and former wrestling coach, the 51-year-old Jordan is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line Republicans who have repeatedly challenged House Speaker John Boehner and contributed to his decision to resign at the end of this month.

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REP. MIKE POMPEO, R-Kan.:

The third-term congressman is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Before he was appointed to the Benghazi panel, he said he believed the American people were misled by the White House, and intelligence was withheld from the public.

Pompeo, 51, said he is most focused on someone being held accountable for the attacks so it does not happen again. In a January hearing, he accused Democrats of being hypocritical. "They talk about us being too slow, yet they act as if their job is to play defense" for the Obama administration, Pompeo said.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Pompeo went to law school and was a businessman in the aerospace and oil industries before he was elected in 2010 with no previous political experience.

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REP. MARTHA ROBY, R-Ala.:

The 39-year-old congresswoman, an attorney and daughter of a federal judge, led the House Armed Services Committee's Benghazi investigation before she was appointed to the select panel last year.

Her Armed Services panel concluded in a report that there was no "stand down" order issued to military personnel in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, who wanted to aid Americans in Benghazi the night that the men were killed. Other Republicans, including Gowdy, have at times suggested otherwise.

In the select committee's hearings, Roby has questioned administration officials about whether they were doing enough to train and vet local security officers in high-risk posts. She says the Clinton hearing will "fill the holes that exist in the narrative of the attack."

"There were a lot of missing pieces" in the other investigations, she says.

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REP. PETER ROSKAM, R-Ill.:

Like the other Republicans on the panel, the congressman has focused on the importance of obtaining all of the emails from the private server Clinton used while in office. He said Clinton has often misled people and not been forthcoming.

Roskam, 54, was in House Republican leadership until 2014, when he lost a conference election to become chief vote counter, to Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise. A former litigator and state legislator, Roskam is in his fifth term. He was elected to Congress in 2006 after a competitive race with another committee member, Democrat Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth was later elected from a neighboring district.

He chairs the oversight subcommittee on the Ways and Means Committee, where he has probed the Internal Revenue Service and the health care law.

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REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND, R-Ga.:

The 65-year-old congressman is also a veteran of another Benghazi investigation, one conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. In 2013, he said White House officials perpetuated a "lie" about the anti-Muslim film "to protect their own backsides."

After he was appointed to the select committee, Democrats targeted him for politicizing Benghazi because he then served as deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House's campaign arm. He later stepped down from that post.

Westmoreland has defended the panel's pace: "The progress may appear slow, but it is steady and meaningful," he said.

A former speaker of the Georgia House, he has said he is considering a bid for House speaker following Boehner's decision to resign.

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RANKING MEMBER ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.:

The 64-year-old congressman from Baltimore also serves as the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When he was named to the new panel, Cummings said Democrats should look to establish the facts. "We need to be neutral," he said. "I don't think we need to be making accusations before we even get in the room."

Almost a year and a half later, Cummings says Republicans have excluded Democrats from interviews with witnesses and moved at a deliberately slow pace.

Cummings says Republicans "have blatantly abused their authority in Congress by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton."

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REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, D-Ill.:

The only military veteran among the Democrats, the 47-year-old says the panel is a waste of taxpayer dollars and finishing the committee's work is "the decent thing to do."

Duckworth is a former director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and an assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration. She was elected to Congress in 2012, becoming one of the first two female combat veterans to serve in the House. She is a former Army National Guard helicopter pilot who lost both legs when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her aircraft in 2004 in Iraq.

She is challenging Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in next year's elections.

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REP. LINDA SANCHEZ, D-Calif.:

Sanchez, 46, says there's not much new to ask Clinton. But she says she'd be interested in hearing from her about what has been done to implement recommendations made in previous reports and what the government has learned from them.

She has also called for an end to the investigation.

Sanchez worked for labor unions before she was elected to Congress in 2002. She is the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee and also serves on the Ways and Means panel.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.:

Schiff, 55, was among the Democrats pushing hardest for an original boycott of the select committee after "umpteen" investigations, including one he participated in by the House Intelligence Committee.

He is now calling for the committee to be shut down and suggested Democrats may have to leave the panel if the investigation stays on the same track.

"Only by ending this expensive and politicized investigation can we begin to undo the damage already done through this unprecedented use of Congress's power for purely partisan purposes," Schiff said.

He says he doesn't know what new ground the panel can cover in interviewing Clinton. The former federal prosecutor says he'll attempt to keep the committee "focused on a legitimate topic and objective."

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REP. ADAM SMITH, D-Wash.:

Smith is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. He is a former state senator and prosecutor for the city of Seattle.

In joining the select committee, he was dismissive: "What are Republicans trying to achieve?" he asked.

Today, Smith has the same question, calling the investigation "open ended and free-wheeling."

Like the other Democrats, he says he doesn't have any more questions for Clinton that haven't already been answered.

"Whatever questions she answers, there will always be people who have more," Smith said.

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Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick.