Finally, Boehner Will Launch a Special Select Committee on Benghazi

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 2 2014 11:55 AM

Finally, Boehner Will Launch a Special Select Committee on Benghazi

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Slate's own Trey Gowdy will get to the bottom of it.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's been a year and a half since Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf said Congress needed more resources to investigate what happened in Benghazi. In 2012, after the attacks, he introduced a resolution calling for a new select committee to look into the disaster. In 2013 he introduced it again. Both times, he and the select-committee cause were urged on by Sen. John McCain; as 2013 dragged on, the committee became a bona fide cause.

Examples:

- In April 2013 the conservative Special Operations Speaks PAC, a coalition of conservative veterans, published an open letter calling on the speaker of the House to launch a select committee. Among the questions: "Who gave the order to “STAND DOWN” that was heard repeatedly during the attacks?" SOS PAC collected signatures throughout the year calling for Congress to move Wolf's bill.

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- In the summer of 2013, former Rep. Allen West—who remains a regular presence in conservative media—accused Boehner and Republican leaders of taking a dive on Benghazi, and that by refusing to create a select committee they were letting the president skate away from responsibility.

- In January 2014 some of the family members of victims who'd been talking to Congress and the media called on Boehner to create the committee, arguing that the standing committees' investigations had failed. "The five committees’ efforts are disjointed and uncoordinated," they wrote. "The Obama administration has benefited from that dysfunctional process to hide the truth."

- Later in January freshman Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine invited Charles Woods, father of Benghazi victim Tyrone Woods, to the State of the Union. "The House of Representatives must establish a select Committee to investigate the incident, the intelligence available, and the actions and inactions of those who should have been responsible for preventing the deaths of four Americans," explained Bridenstine.

Throughout this period, the speaker's office had held out the possibility of a select committee but gently explained why it wasn't necessary. As recently as February, when the speaker's office launched a Web hub to collect Benghazi information, Republican aides were cold to the idea of a new committee. The hub, they said, was there to emphasize how much work had been done already, not that the table-bangers were thanking them for it.

Well, here comes the Friday news dump. Boehner will launch a special select committee on Benghazi.

“The new emails this week were the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says the aide. “The Speaker was furious to learn that the admininstration withheld relevant documents from a congressional subpoena. He’s sick and tired of this evasion and obstruction from the administration, and wants a solution to finally force accountability, get to the truth, and provide justice.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who led the D.C. subcommittee on oversight until that was collapsed into the larger committee last year, will head up the special Benghazi committee. This is absolutely all the Benghazi question-askers could have hoped for. Gowdy, a former prosecutor (and Slate columnist!) is a dramatic questioner whose every other time at the mic turns into a viral video. Among the hits: the time he bellowed that he didn't give "a damn whose careers are ruined" on the way to getting truth ...

... and the time his eyes grew damp as he told the family members of victims that the Congress would never give up the hunt. "We can't give you closure. Just facts. The truth."

It took long enough, but the base, the Benghazi families, talk radio, conservative members of Congress, and every other force that weighs down on the speaker got him to move. Let the record show that it was a Judicial Watch FOIA find that got Boehner off the fence.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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