It’s necessary first to rectify all misconceptions arising from a story recently published in SFGate headlined House panel: No administration wrongdoing in Benghazi attack. The story opens with:
The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, the second-ranking Democrat on the committee.That SFGate reporter, Carolyn Lochhead, chose to say "led by Republicans" rather than naming the chairman, has led to considerable confusion among readers. Sky Net (in the comments below) reasonably concluded it was "so readers would know the Committee's conclusion wasn't politically motivated." While that's the most likely explanation, it nevertheless led many readers to assume this is Rep Darrell Issa’s committee. Certainly a number of Kossacks thought so.
This is not Darrell Issa’s committee and he ostensibly had nothing to do with this decision!
Note the word ostensibly – I chose it because I think it probable that he had a good deal to do with this decision in an artful, devious and underhanded way, just not in any open, official manner. Furthermore, there’s every reason to suspect this is a much bigger story than the media supposes.
But, before going into that, let me lay out the facts as they pertain to the SFGate story and any misconceptions arising from it.
From the top: Rep Mike Rogers (R, MI-08) is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and this decision as reported by Democratic committee member Mike Thompson (D, CA-05) to SFGate came from Rogers' committee.
Darrell Issa is chair of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee (which is often abbreviated to the House Oversight Committee) and is not and never has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee (though Michele Bachmann is, which substantially lowers the overall IQ of this committee).
It is also important to note that Speaker John Boehner removed Benghazi from the jurisdiction of Issa’s Oversight Committee over two months ago. Since then, Issa has not been allowed to investigate Benghazi in any way. In fact, he was ordered by Boehner to hand over every single file on Benghazi to Rep Trey Gowdy who was appointed by Boehner to the chairmanship of a special Select Committee set up specifically to investigate Benghazi and only Benghazi.
This raises an interesting question: given that there are a number of committees (including the House Intelligence Committee) investigating Benghazi in one capacity or another, why did Boehner order that only Issa’s Oversight Committee cease and desist in investigating this faux scandal and not all the others which were also surplus to requirements from the moment Gowdy’s Select Committee took effect? The answer to that lies in the reason Boehner terminated the Oversight Committee’s authority to investigate Benghazi. But first some background.
The “Infighting” in the title of this diary alludes to the bitter feud between Issa and Gowdy. It’s impossible to say when it started. Gowdy was a member on Issa’s Oversight Committee so there was ample opportunity for hostilities to develop long before it became obvious. Undoubtedly Gowdy was behind the initial escalation of those hostilities. From A Tale of Two Committees: The Battle for Benghazi:
There had to be a lot of talk going on behind Issa's back with Gowdy being tattletale-in-chief, bending Boehner’s ear at every opportunity. It would have started when confidence in Issa’s ability began to be questioned, no doubt aided and abetted by Gowdy who would have accumulated plenty of material in committee meetings then put his own spin on it without anyone to contradict him - it’s safe to assume Issa never knew what was going on.It soon became evident what Issa would do. In summary, he tried to steal the spotlight from Gowdy by issuing a subpoena (twice) to Secretary of State John Kerry, then followed that up by leaking a still-classified State Department email that was very damaging to Gowdy’s nascent investigation.
When this new select committee was announced, Gowdy stepped into the spotlight and everyone ignored Darrell Issa - no-one give a moment's thought to his reaction. Here's this ego-driven, belligerent, spotlight-loving leader of his own high profile committee being publicly humiliated by the Speaker and side-lined in the wake of a newer, shinier committee yet no-one wondered what he was thinking and, more pertinently, what he might do.
Though unreported, I am confident that [Gowdy] again went to Boehner to complain how unfair it was that Issa was getting Kerry and not him. No doubt he pointed out that the select committee was Boehner’s idea and Issa was undermining it. So Boehner went to Issa and issued an order: release Kerry from his commitment and relinquish all Benghazi investigations to the select committee.Issa is exactly the kind of person to hold a grudge; the kind of person whose obsessive need for retaliation would know no bounds, the kind to plot his adversary’s downfall weeks in advance. What more effective and vicious way to accomplish this than by sabotaging Gowdy’s prized committee by subverting its entire purpose? That’s precisely what Mike Rogers’ Intelligence Committee achieved and that’s why I believe Issa was behind this.
Issa must have been devastated. ...not only had he lost his prize witness but he’d lost Benghazi – Gowdy, through Boehner, had out-maneuvered him and stolen the entire investigation from his grasp.
The timing was perfect. The vote was taken in committee on the last scheduled day before Congress was due to break for the Summer. Though House Reps did extend that by another half day to deal with their border bill, I doubt very much that Gowdy knew anything of the Intelligence Committee’s decision before he left the Capitol.
He now has 5½ weeks to stew over the news before he gets back to Congress. His urgent phone call to Speaker Boehner would have been worth listening into as would Boehner’s subsequent call to Mike Rogers. Issa of course will distance himself from the whole affair. Provided those he colluded with in the Intelligence Committee keep quiet, he has little to fear.
It will be interesting to see what mainstream media make of this once they pick up the story. Currently it is buzzing from one blog site to another but, as far as I can see, no-one has yet made the connection with Issa. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’m not alone in connecting these particular dots – I’m willing to bet Trey Gowdy has made the connection.
UPDATE: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) have all released statements to the press with Ruppersberger's being the latest and most comprehensive.