A House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, plans to interview at least 20 current and former officials including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and ex-CIA head David Petraeus, the committee said Friday.
The list of those to be interviewed – a veritable “who’s who” of recent U.S. foreign policy and national security officials – emerged as Democrats complained about the Select Committee on Benghazi’s “unlimited” budget and yawning, open-ended schedule, as it goes over ground covered by earlier congressional investigations.
Democrats say the committee’s efforts are politically motivated and appear to be aimed at undermining the possible presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. She was Secretary of State when the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Republicans say Clinton’s State Department failed to protect diplomatic personnel.
Previous investigations have said that the compound where Stevens died was not well protected, but that the CIA and the U.S. military responded properly to the attacks.
A letter to Democrats dated Thursday from the panel’s Republican chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy, detailed the list of people he plans to interview after April 1.
They include Rice, who rankled many Republicans soon after the Benghazi events with televised comments that the attacks were related to protests against a U.S.-made video, rather than being premeditated armed assaults. This was two months before President Barack Obama was to face voters seeking re-election; Rice was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time.
Others on Gowdy’s list include Rice’s current deputy, Ben Rhodes; White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former White House press secretary Jay Carney, and several State Department officials.
Gowdy wants Clinton to testify to the panel in public, but wants more documents first. By Gowdy’s own description, the State Department has already handed over the equivalent of “40 copies of Dr. Zhivago.”
Democrats this week asked the House Administration Committee for a hearing on the Benghazi panel’s spending, saying it could cost over $3 million in 2015 – about $8,000 per day.
The Administration Committee rejected the Democrats’ request as “remarkably odd,” saying they should have spoken out when the House of Representatives reauthorized the panel in January. It was created in May and spent $1.8 million last year.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bernadette Baum)