Over the past three years, Republicans in the House have threatened to shut down the federal government over the debt ceiling, funding for Planned Parenthood, the sequester, and the Affordable Care Act. They are willing to stop all the good work the government does, just to prove a bad point.
But there is one part of the federal government they can, and should, shut down immediately. It is time to cease the operations of the Special Committee on Benghazi. This taxpayer-sponsored witch-hunt must come to an end now.
On Wednesday, I sent a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), charging Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. “Trey” Gowdy with violating “federal law and House rules by using official funds appropriated to the Select Committee on Benghazi to pay political or campaign-related expenses.” Specifically, I asked OCE to investigate how they misused $4.5 million of taxpayer money in an unscrupulous attempt to torpedo Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.
As I said in my letter to the OCE, “Federal law requires that appropriated funds may only be used for the purposes for which they were appropriated. House Administration Committee regulations implement this law by requiring that ‘Committee funds may only be used to support the conduct of official business of the committee. Committee funds may not be used to defray any personal, political or campaign-related expenses . . . .’”
Compare this to Rep. McCarthy’s Sept. 29 admission on Fox News’s The Sean Hannity Show: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable right? We put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? ‘Cause she is untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen."
Rep. McCarthy has paid for this confession to this abuse of power. He removed himself from the race for House Speaker the day after I filed the ethics complaint. Now it’s time to remove the commission itself.
The Benghazi Committee has been a political dog-and-pony show for its entire 17-month history. For a period longer than Congress investigated Watergate, the Republican Majority has subpoenaed State Department employees and others close to Secretary Clinton, solely to generate anti-Clinton propaganda. Indeed, this inquisition has been perpetuated for so long precisely so that it would coincide with the Democratic Presidential Primary race. The Committee hasn’t held a single hearing since January. It has been clear even to casual observers that the purpose of the committee was never to investigate the tragic death of four Americans in a terrorist attack; it was to attack Hillary Clinton. It is a textbook example of what Secretary Clinton’s husband aptly labeled “the politics of personal destruction.”
The fact is, there is no “there” there. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have read every email, every brief, and every classified memo about the tragic events in Benghazi. There is not one scintilla of evidence that anyone in the State Department, from entry-level employees to Secretary Clinton herself, took any action that unnecessarily put lives at risk, or covered up anything. The Ambassador, solely on his own authority and with good intentions, went to a place that was not safe. That is a mistake, not a scandal. As I said at a Foreign Affairs hearing, this is “the scandal that never was.” Yet the Republicans on the committee have wasted their time, and our money, trying to generate enough smoke so that someone might think that there is a fire.
We’ve seen this before. Sixty years ago, another McCarthy in Congress held politically motivated hearings, in an attempt to smear the good names of loyal Americans. Sen. Joe McCarthy’s persecutions of those whom he accused of “Communist sympathies” also wasted huge amounts of money, and ruined innocent lives. Attorney Joe Welch’s indignant response to Sen. McCarthy -- “Have you no sense of decency?” -- ended that shameful period. But today, with the Benghazi Commission, we are witnessing the New McCarthyism.
Secretary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22. While I know that she will – once again -- expertly explain the circumstances of that tragic day, the Special Committee on Anti-Hillary Agitprop should be shut down before then. It is long past time that we put an end to this shameful and politically motivated witch hunt.