(POLITICO) It’s late Wednesday afternoon, the day after Hillary Clinton’s defiant I’m-telling-you-this-and-nothing-more news conference at the United Nations and Trey Gowdy — who’s now seen as her No. 1 antagonist on Benghazi — is all over the news up in Washington. But this is the middle of South Carolina, Gowdy’s home district, and the two-term congressman pulls into a Cracker Barrel on State Highway 183 — where I’m waiting to meet him — alone at the wheel of a filthy silver Toyota Corolla. Gowdy gets out, hands me the keys and drawls, “Car’s over there. Got to go to the men’s room.” Inside the Corolla, crud from some ancient condiment spill has permanently affixed itself to the gear-shift console, and a thick layer of dust covers the dash. Stuffed into the passenger back seat pocket is a battered loose-leaf notebook labeled “Benghazi ARB”—which, when I point it out to him, Gowdy leafs through as if he’s discovering a long-lost document. “Oh yeah, this was our hearing on the Accountability Review Board,” he says. “Forgot it was there.”
The day before, Gowdy had made all the right Washington moves. Clinton had barely stepped away from the microphone before Gowdy’s office released a statement, chiding the insufficiency of her answers, demanding Clinton turn over the personal computer server and promising to require her to “appear at least twice” before Gowdy’s committee. A few hundred miles and a news cycle away from the capital, maneuvering the car onto the rainy highway, bound for a lecture at Clemson University, the voluble and relaxed former prosecutor sounds less like the Grand Inquisitor and more like the fair-minded judge that he has long aspired to be.
Contrary to all rumor and innuendo, Gowdy says he is completely open to the idea that Clinton may have done nothing wrong while secretary of state. He has publicly pointed out “gaps” that go for “months" in the materials she has provided on Benghazi. But he insists he’s not accusing her of anything; he just doesn’t know yet, he says.
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