WASHINGTON — Congress is suddenly serious about getting to the bottom of the Benghazi scandal and finding out whether the White House played politics with the death of an American ambassador by trying to deflect blame for the deadly attack.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has finally agreed to a longstanding demand by fellow GOP lawmakers to convene a select committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya ,that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, on Sept. 11, 2012.
Boehner is reportedly looking for concrete evidence that the effort to deflect blame for the attack came from the heart of the White House.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a strong critic of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack and its aftermath, is considered a leading candidate to chair the committee.
WND interviewed Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., numerous times about his attempts to get Boehner to agree to convene just this committee.
The congressman was understandably delighted at the news, but he warned the committee must have complete subpoena powers and be comprised of lawmakers and staff with expertise in these types of investigations, including seasoned lawyers and investigators.
Wolf, whose 17-term tenure extends back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory, began calling for a select committee to get to the bottom of the Benghazi attack as far back as November 2012. Wolf’s House resolution requesting that committee was so popular with his fellow rank-and-file Republicans that it attracted more than 185 co-sponsors.
But Boehner steadfastly refused to form the committee, publicly saying it might hamper the five committee investigations underway. Some suspected he and other top Republicans might have been covering for themselves, after reportedly receiving secret briefings on arms transfers from Benghazi to Syrian rebels, done without congressional approval.
The speaker’s sudden about-face on Friday came after a lawsuit by Judicial Watch forced the Obama administration to release what many consider a “smoking gun” email.
The email, withheld by the State Department for 19 months after it was subpoenaed, shows that White House official Ben Rhodes, a top national security aide to President Obama, gave talking points to then-Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on five Sunday talk shows.
He encouraged her to emphasize the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy” even though defense and intelligence officials had already decided the video was not the cause of the attack.
According to the CIA station chief and State Department officials in Libya during the attack, there was no spontaneous protest against an anti-Islamic video on the Internet, and the compound had come under a pre-planned and coordinated attack by an al-Qaida affiliate.
Even after the administration learned those people blamed terrorists and not a video, the administration continued to blame the video.
President Obama stuck to the disproven narrative and still blamed the attack on the video when addressing the United Nations on Sept. 25, a full two weeks after the attack.
In fact, the attempt by the president to blame the video may have begun while the attack was still underway.
It has been reported that at about 10 p.m. in Washington on Sept. 11, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama spoke on the telephone, and shortly afterward, the State Department issued a statement from Clinton blaming the video for the atrocity in Benghazi.
Because the Rhodes email makes clear the White House’s immediate desire to blame the video, Boehner was said to be furious that the administration would withhold such important information for so long.
“Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People’s House,” Boehner said in a statement.
“These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen. In light of these new developments, the House will vote to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served.”
White House officials first claimed the Rhodes email shouldn’t have been turned over because it didn’t refer to Benghazi. When reporters rejected that claim, the White House changed its tune and claimed the email briefly covered Benghazi, but questions about its release would have to answered by the State Department.
That caused the House Oversight on Friday to subpoena Secretary of State John Kerry to answer questions about the email and the entire Benghazi scandal.
In a blistering letter accompanying the subpoena, Chairman Darrell Issa wrote, “Compliance with a subpoena for documents is not a game.”
“The Department is not entitled to delay responsive materials because it is embarrassing or implicates the roles and actions of senior officials,” he added.
Issa said he still expected Kerry to appear before his committee on May 21, even after Boehner announced his intention to form the select committee, saying Kerry is still legally responsible for producing material responsive to the three document subpoenas issued by the Oversight Committee.
Another Benghazi bombshell was unearthed Thursday in testimony before Issa’s committee by retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, who was in the operations control room in Germany on the night of the attacks, and said the State Department never even asked military forces to try to save Americans in Benghazi during the attack.
The select committee, once approved by the House, will bring together members of the other committees investigating Benghazi and will subject witnesses to extensive depositions.
Wolf said the purpose committee must be to investigate the apparent cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, which he called “ultimately about an abuse of power by the White House.”
He added, “We need to know whether the administration used the intelligence community and law enforcement as cover for political purposes in the weeks leading up to President Obama’s re-election.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND, “A Select Committee on Benghazi is long overdue. Americans deserve to know the truth about what happened in Benghazi, not a false narrative designed to politically protect President Obama and Secretary Clinton.”
Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, “[T]he administration has spent all its energy over the last nineteen months trying to cover up their failure to protect our people in Benghazi instead of trying to bring the terrorists who attacked them to justice.”
“For anyone tempted to ask, ‘What difference at this point does it make?’ they should know that by learning what happened, we can do a better job of preventing it in the future,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
He added, “Two embassies were attacked while the Clintons were in the White House, and if they had done a better job assessing the problems then, the Benghazi attack may not have killed four more Americans.”
And, while welcoming the news of the select committee, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, warned, “Unfortunately, congressional hearings are often used to bury or defuse politically damaging information. There will be tremendous pressure to use this committee to whitewash the matter before the 2016 election.”
“The Obama administration, Democrats in Congress and even some Republicans will work to thwart and undermine the committee,” he added. “Those seeking justice may be outnumbered on this committee. We must not allow this Select Committee to engage in an incomplete or biased investigation.”