Benghazi Committee Preliminary Report: ‘Greatest Impediment’ Is Obama White House

Matt Vespa
|
Posted: May 11, 2015 7:55 PM
Benghazi Committee Preliminary Report: ‘Greatest Impediment’ Is Obama White House

On the one-year anniversary of the panel’s creation, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has released his preliminary report on the investigation’s progress. In a press release, the committee noted that the biggest problem concerning wrapping this investigation up is the uncooperativeness of the Obama White House

“I am proud of what a professional team of investigators, committed to uncovering all the facts has been able to accomplish since the committee was created,” said Gowdy, in the press release statement. “But while progress has been made, the greatest impediment to completing this investigation in a timely manner has been the level of cooperation by the executive branch. We look forward to completing our work in manner that is worthy of the sacrifice made by the four men who died and trust of our fellow Americans.”

Here are some of the highlights of the 15-page report [emphasis mine]:

  • The Committee has reviewed a substantial volume of information previously produced to the House and has requested and received new information. More than 20,000 pages of emails and documents never before released to Congress have been produced by the State Department.” (pp. 1-2)
  • “In addition, hundreds of pages of emails never before seen by Congress have been produced by the White House. The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community have also produced documents. Further, the Committee has interviewed State Department and CIA personnel, including survivors of the Benghazi terrorist attacks who had never been interviewed by previous committees, as well as others who have been able to provide indispensable firsthand details of the U.S. presence in Benghazi, Libya.” (p. 2)
  • “From the outset, the Committee sought to develop an understanding of the perspective and insight from a specific group of people who had been most impacted by the attacks on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi: the families of the victims. To that end, some of the first meetings the Committee conducted were with the victims’ families. The meetings offered the families an opportunity to be heard and to provide their insight to the Committee. Relatedly, the Committee met with the respective agencies to discuss survivorship benefits to ensure the families of the victims received benefits to which they were entitled. This issue remains unresolved with respect to one agency.” (p.3)
  • “The Committee has also held over two dozen classified and unclassified briefings with the Administration and Executive Branch agencies that have information relevant to the investigation.” (p.3)
  • “These negotiations resulted in the State Department producing 15,000 pages of new documents to the Committee. These productions were the first time: (1) the State Department produced any email to or from former Secretary Clinton; and (2) the Committee became aware the former Secretary had used a private e-mail account to conduct official State Department business.” (p.4)
  • “[On] November 18, 2014, the Committee sent a request for documents to the State Department, including seeking emails to and from Secretary Clinton and her senior staff. The request was the result of a review of the record provided by the previous House committees and the lack of email traffic among these individuals. Almost three months later, on February 13, 2015, the Department produced approximately 300 emails to and from the former Secretary during her time as the head of the State Department. However, the State Department has yet to produce a single document pursuant to the remaining portions of the November request. The Committee emphasized the importance of this request by issuing its second subpoena on March 4, 2015 – seeking the emails and documents relating to the ten senior State Department officials. These officials were the same ones referenced in the November 2014 document and communication request, except for the former Secretary. Despite the document request and the subpoena, the State Department has yet to comply.” (p.5)
  • “The Committee continues to move forward in its investigation – interviewing survivors of the terrorist attacks and others who are giving indispensable firsthand accounts of what happened before, during and after the attacks. This undertaking has resulted in hundreds of hours of preparation, nearly 100 hours of actual interview time and 2,500 pages of testimony. In the coming months, an additional 60 witnesses, representing current and former officials and employees from the State Department, the White House and the Intelligence Community will be interviewed.” (p.8)
  • “In December 2014, the Select Committee sent a request to the White House for documents and communications pertaining to Benghazi. This marked the first time that a congressional committee had asked the White House for documents about its role in the events prior to, during and after the Benghazi attacks. In February 2015, the White House and the Committee met to discuss this request and create a path forward. As a result of the meeting, the White House produced 266 pages of documents, many of which were emails to and from the National Security Staff.” (p.9)
  • “Over the last year, the FBI has provided nearly 50 intelligence reports related to its investigation into the Benghazi attacks to the Committee. Eighteen of these reports are specific to the interrogation and prosecution of Abu Khattala and have never before been shared with Congress.” (p.10)

Now, all eyes turn to Hillary Clinton, whose legal team said she is willing to testify in front of the Committee in the next few weeks. The Committee originally asked for two appearances from the former Secretary of State, but Clinton’s legal team cited lack of precedent for such a request, and noted that one appearance should suffice the Committee’s needs given that she will stay as long as needed to fully answer the panel’s questions. We don’t know if this will be a closed-door hearing, or if this will be held at an off-site location. It’s possible. Gowdy has been more than accommodating towards the former first lady, even saying that members of the Committee and the transcriber would come to her when he requested a transcribed interview with Clinton– a request that was denied. Gowdy also requested that Mrs. Clinton turn over the private email server to a third party for analysis. That was also denied and considered a moot point given that her lawyers told Gowdy in a letter that the server had been wiped clean, along with any back-up systems connected to it.