WASHINGTON — Remember the House Select Committee on Benghazi? The ninth official probe into what really happened in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in eastern Libya?
It turns two years old today, making it one of the longest-running special congressional investigations in history.
The only notable revelation by the committee, which has spent nearly $7 million, is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept all her official email on an unsecured private server -- which the FBI is now investigating.
The committee has interviewed nearly 100 witnesses, including 75 that it says were never interviewed before.
Perhaps that’s enough. But as for shedding any more light on what happened on that night when U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, it has yet to do so.
Members of the committee told Roll Call before going on vacation for all of last week that they were working diligently to come out with a report before the 2016 presidential nominating conventions in July.
Representatives for the committee initially declined to offer any updates for this article, but pointed to an extensive list of purported achievements on the committee’s website. (And see updates, below.)
Democrats contacted by The Huffington Post had plenty to say.
“Republicans have now spent more than two years and nearly $7 million of taxpayer funds for the illegitimate purpose of bringing down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, as Kevin McCarthy admitted,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the select committee, referring to an unintended admission by the second-ranking Republican in the House.
"It has been apparent since the beginning that the Select Committee on Benghazi would be little more than a politically motivated fishing expedition,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) a senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He noted that if the costs of other agencies responding to the committee are included in the price tag, taxpayers are on the hook for about $20 million.
"As we get even closer to the 2016 general election, all but the most dedicated partisans have written off the committee and its tremendous cost as one of the worst investigative abuses in congressional history,” Schiff said.
“The Select Committee has discovered no new evidence that contradicts the core findings of the previous bipartisan and independent investigations,” Cummings said.
Cummings also noted that as the committee’s investigation has dragged on, Republicans have progressively cut Democrats out of its workings. Members of the minority are now only allowed to review transcripts of witness interviews, and only with a Republican staffer observing them. They’ve also been excluded from contributing to the committee's report.
“Two years and millions of dollars later, Republicans have lost any semblance of credibility as they continue to drag this out as close as they can to the election,” Cummings said.
To celebrate the committee entering its third year of existence, Democrats put together a list of 10 “lowlights” of its first two years. Among them are McCarthy’s admission of the political bent of the committee, similar to charges by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and a former investigator on the GOP staff.
The lowlights list also includes the condemnation of the committee by the Republican presumptive nominee for president, Donald Trump, who claimed to be thoroughly unimpressed with the committee after Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Trump called the committee “a total disaster” that “was not good for Republicans and for the country.” He also tweeted that Gowdy "failed miserably on Benghazi,” and called him “Benghazi loser Gowdy.”
A spokesman for the committee scoffed at the overall cost estimate, and pointed out that some of the committee's direct costs should be attributed to Democrats, who, he noted, have not called any witnesses.
“The do-nothing Democrats on the Benghazi Committee have wasted more than $2.3 million in taxpayer money but have only extreme partisanship, lies, selective leaks, and sabotage to show for it," said Matt Wolking. "They aren't even pretending to be interested in getting answers for the families of the victims, and aren't denying coordination with political groups and the Clinton propaganda machine. Their frantic, false attacks are proof they’re clearly nervous about the new information committee investigators have uncovered.”
Gowdy insisted in a statement that the committee was breaking new ground, that it would deliver a thorough report, and that it was Democrats who were playing politics:
“From the very beginning, the Committee Majority sought to conduct a fair and thorough investigation focused exclusively on the facts. The committee never deviated from this mission, despite Committee Democrats consistently undermining and obstructing our work. It’s quite telling they never requested a single witness or document from this administration in two years – not a single one. Committee Democrats were content to ignore more than 74,000 pages of new documents and the testimony of more than 75 new witnesses. They have been singularly obsessed with politics, as the public will soon learn from the redundant, rote questions they ask witnesses. Despite Democrat obstruction, the committee has identified new facts that significantly impact our understanding of what happened before, during, and after Benghazi.
“This investigation and the committee’s final report is about the four brave Americans we lost in Libya, getting the truth for their families and all Americans, and conducting effective congressional oversight to prevent what happened in Benghazi from happening again. Anyone looking for a report focused on the former Secretary of State will be disappointed. This investigation is not about her, and the report will not be about her either. She is an important witness whose decisions impacted virtually all aspects of Benghazi, but she is a single witness among the soon to be 100 interviewed by the committee.
“The committee is urging the administration to declassify as many documents as it can, and I look forward to releasing our report and the transcripts of our witness interviews as soon as possible, so everyone can judge the thoroughness and fairness of this investigation for themselves.”
This story was updated May 15, 2015, to add comments that were inadvertently not included when the committee provided them after publication.