There are many moments that will stand out for me, from the 10 hour abusive bullying “Benghazi hearing” circus conducted by Republicans which attempted to break former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and failed.
Of course there is Mrs. Clinton herself.
I will never forget Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who came powerfully to her defense, and to the defense of what democracy is supposed to look like, and not the 10 hour travesty we witnessed.
“We’re better than that!”
Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi committee, offered a full-throated defense of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s honor, apologizing to her for his colleagues who suggested that she did not care for the people who died on her watch.
“I don’t know what we want from you,” Mr. Cummings said, accusing Republicans of using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. “Do we want to badger you over and over again until you do get so tired so we get the gotcha moment?”
Clearly touched by his words, Mrs. Clinton thanked Mr. Cummings and said that she had done all that she could to answer more than ten hours of questions. She then expressed hope that, somehow, statesmanship could overcome partisanship.
“It is deeply unfortunate that something as serious as what happened in Benghazi could ever be used for partisan political purposes,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can move forward together.”
Here is his powerful opening statement:
Ranking Member Cummings Opening Statement at Hearing 4
Oct 22, 2015
As Prepared for Delivery
Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for being here today to testify before Congress on this issue—now for the third time.
This week, our Chairman, Mr. Gowdy, was interviewed for a lengthy media profile. During this interview, he complained that he has “an impossible job.” He said it is impossible to conduct a serious, fact-centric investigation in such a “political environment.”
I have great respect for the Chairman, but on this score, he is wrong. In fact, it has been done by his own Republican colleagues in the House on this very issue—Benghazi.
The Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee conducted an extensive, bipartisan, two-year investigation and issued a detailed report. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee also conducted bipartisan investigations.
Those bipartisan efforts respected and honored the memories of the four brave Americans who were killed in Benghazi: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.
The problem is that Speaker Boehner did not like the answers he got from those investigations. So he set up this new Select Committee—with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget—and he set it loose on Secretary Clinton because she is running for president.
Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation. What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
In the Chairman’s interview, he tried to defend against this criticism by attempting to cast himself as the victim, and he complained about attacks on the credibility of the Select Committee. His argument would be more compelling if Republicans weren’t leading the charge.
As we all know, Rep. Kevin McCarthy—Speaker Boehner’s second-in-command and the Chairman’s close friend—admitted that they established the Select Committee to drive down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers.
Republican Congressman Richard Hanna said the Select Committee was “designed” to go after Secretary Clinton.
And one of the Chairman’s own investigators—a conservative Republican—charged that he was fired in part for not going along with these plans to “hyper focus on Hillary Clinton.”
These stark admissions reflect exactly what we have seen inside the Select Committee for the past year. Just look at the facts.
Since January, Republicans have canceled every single hearing on our schedule for the entire year—except for this one with Secretary Clinton.
They also canceled numerous interviews that they had planned with Defense Department and CIA officials.
Instead of doing what they said they were going to do, Republicans zeroed in on Secretary Clinton, her speechwriters, her IT staffers, and her campaign officials. This is what Republicans did—not Democrats.
When Speaker Boehner established this Select Committee, he justified it by arguing that it would be “cross-jurisdictional.” I assumed he meant we would focus on more than just Secretary Clinton and the State Department.
But Madam Secretary, you are sitting here by yourself. The Secretary of Defense is not on your left, and the Director of the CIA is not on your right. That’s because Republicans abandoned their own plans to question those top officials. So instead of being “cross-jurisdictional,” Republicans just crossed them off the list.
Last weekend, the Chairman told his Republican colleagues to “shut up” and stop talking about the Select Committee.
What I want to know is this—why tell Republicans to shut up when they are telling the truth, but not when they are attacking Secretary Clinton with reckless accusations that are demonstrably false?
Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton “has blood on her hands,” Mike Huckabee accused her of “ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,” Senator Rand Paul said “Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,” and Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, “Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?”
Everyone on this panel knows these accusations are baseless—from our own investigation and all those before it. Yet Republican Members of this Select Committee remain silent.
On Monday, the Democrats issued a report showing that none of the 54 witnesses the Committee interviewed substantiated these wild Republican claims. Secretary Clinton did not order the military to stand down, and she neither approved nor denied requests for additional security.
I ask that our report be included in the official record for today’s hearing.
What is so telling is that we issued virtually the same report a year ago. When we first joined the Select Committee, I asked my staff to put together a complete report and database setting forth the primary questions that have been asked about the attacks and all of the answers that were provided in the eight previous investigations.
I ask that this report also be included in today’s hearing record.
The problem is that rather than accepting these facts, Republicans continue to spin new conspiracy theories that are just as outlandish and inaccurate. For example, the Chairman recently tried to argue that Sidney Blumenthal was Secretary Clinton’s primary advisor on Libya, and this past Sunday, Rep. Pompeo claimed on national television that Secretary Clinton relied on Sidney Blumenthal for most of her intelligence on Libya.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post Fact Checker awarded this claim “four pinocchios”—its worst rating.
Here is the bottom-line. The Select Committee has spent 17 months and $4.7 million in taxpayer funds. We have held four hearings and conducted 54 interviews and depositions. Yes, we have received some new emails—from Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Stevens, and others. And yes, we have conducted some new interviews.
But these documents and interviews do not show any nefarious activity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The new information we have obtained confirms and corroborates the core facts we already knew from the eight previous investigations. They provide more detail, but they do not change the basic conclusions.
It is time for Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition. We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. We need to finally make good on our promises to the families, and we need to start focusing on what we here in Congress can do to improve the safety and security of our diplomatic corps in the future.
Rep. Cummings is the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Select Committee on Benghazi, serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Joint Economic Committee. He is also a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and The Progressive Caucus.
You can join me in thanking him for his service:
Washington, DC Office
2230 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4741
Fax: (202) 225-3178
Hours: M-F 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM EST
I’d also like to add my thanks to the people of the 7th District of Maryland who have voted to keep him in office since 1996.