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Democrats join Benghazi committee with skepticism

Democrats appointed to the House select committee on Benghazi said they were participating because they wanted to keep the process fair, even though they didn't think it would be.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   May 21, 2014 at 4:56 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The Democrats may have agreed to join a House select committee on Benghazi, but they're making no effort to disguise their distaste for the process.

After weeks of hesitation, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, agreed to appoint a full complement of members to the committee, deciding it was better to ensure Democrats views were represented in the room than boycott the entire proceeding.

Pelosi said she and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had failed to come to any kind of agreement on the rules for the committee, and she, and the five selected members, made no effort to hide their skepticism for how it would pan out.

"We had hoped for a level of fairness and transparency and balance, especially considering the subject matter," she said. "Regrettably the Republican approach does not prevent the repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way."

House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who will also serve as the select committee's ranking member, has repeatedly butted heads with Oversight Chair Darrel Issa, R-Calif. He accused Issa of issuing "unilateral subpoenas, they've made unsubstantiated accusations with no evidence to back them up, and they have released selections of documents and transcripts that distort the truth, in some instances, when they've had exculpatory evidence right at hand."

"So I feel that I owe it to the families of Ambassador [Chris] Stevens and the other great Americans who lost their precious lives to bring some minimal balance to this process and to check false claims wherever they may arise," Cummings said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., took a swipe at Republicans' determined focus on a set of talking points handed to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for her appearances on Sunday shows the week following the September 11, 2012 attack. Over multiple hearings, Republicans have poured over timelines, edits, and communications of the talking points in search of a smoking gun that will prove the State Department tried to downplay the seriousness of the attack for political reasons in an election year.

"The decision was ultimately made that we need somebody in that room to stand up for the truth," Schiff said. "And that will be our responsibility: to make sure that this does not become select committee on talking points, that we focus instead on the things that really matter."

In a statement Wednesday, Gowdy was polite.

"I respect Mr. Cummings and his work in Congress," he said. "I look forward to working with him and the members of the committee toward an investigation and a process worthy of the American people and the four brave Americans who lost their lives in service to our country."

The House voted along largely party lines earlier this month to form the select committee, which will have seven Republican members, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and five Democratic members.

Democrats hesitated to sign onto the process after House Speaker Boehner denied requests to create an evenly balanced panel, to allow Democrats to vote on the committee's subpoenas.

The committee members are:
- Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. (Chairman),
- Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. (Ranking member),
- Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind.,
- Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.,
- Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio,
- Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.,
- Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.,
- Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.,
- Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.,
- Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.,
- Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and
- Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.

Follow @gabbilevy and @UPI on Twitter.
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