the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform is convening its
long-awaited hearing on the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.
consulate in Benghazi -- one that will feature a group of self-described
"whistleblowers" from inside the State Department.
According to leaked copies of their testimonies, the witnesses -- Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/chargé d'affairs in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic
security officer and former regional security officer in Libya -- will
testify that the State Department rebuffed requests for additional
security at the consulate and that the Obama administration
denied a request to send a team of special forces to Benghazi. According to the witnesses, U.S. soldiers could have made it to the consulate in time to save lives, though that is a highly contentious
The controversial testimony is sure to generate heated debate among the lawmakers assembled. Here's a guide to what you
can expect from the most high-profile antagonists in today's hearing:
known for lobbing endless accusations at the Obama administration for
the botched "Fast and Furious" operation at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Issa, the
committee's chairman, is now staking a claim as a major
player in Republican efforts to keep the White House's feet to the fire
on Benghazi. On Monday, Issa, a California Republican, told CBS News
that there is "no question" that former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton's inner circle and possibly the secretary herself were involved
in covering up the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attack.
Hillary Clinton is not responsible for the before, during and after
mistakes ... it's somebody close. There certainly are plenty of people
close to the former secretary who knew, and apparently were part of the
problem," Issa told CBS.
darling of the Tea Party, Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, has accused the Obama administration of seeking
to suppress the testimony of the witnesses slated to appear. "There are
people who want to testify that have been suppressed," he told Fox News Sunday. "They're scared to death of what the State Department is doing with them."
Expect Chaffetz to advance the ball on allegations that the U.S.
military could have responded to distress calls at the Benghazi consulate. On Monday, he told Fox News
that the military was told to "stand down" and that after the attacks the
Obama administration worked to cover up orders for the military to not respond to the attack.
South Carolina Republican, Gowdy is the man behind much of the hype
leading up to today's hearing. "There are more Benghazi hearings coming;
I think they're going to be explosive," he told Fox News in late April. But don't just expect grandstanding from Gowdy. A former prosecutor, Gowdy told
conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he is concerned his Republican
colleagues won't sufficiently focus on fact-finding during the hearing,
and that he has been working behind the scenes to educate his colleagues about the
art of interrogation. "So I have worked with, now, four of my colleagues
whose backgrounds are not in litigation, how to ask these questions in a
precise, pithy way that makes the witness the star and not some
arm-flailing congressman who wants to be on YouTube," Gowdy told Hewitt.
Expect Gowdy to pursue some interesting lines of questioning. Here's what he promised Hewitt:
fear over the weekend was that a lot of the information that I thought
would be most interesting tomorrow has already been released. So I went
to staff, and I went to others, and said with any jury trial, you have
to save something back. You have to be interesting on the day of the
trial. And I have been assured, in fact, I know, because I've seen it
myself, there's going to be new, provocative, instructive, dare not use
the word explosive, but there's going to be information that comes out
tomorrow that whether people have been so desensitized to government
lying to them that they don't care anymore, I cannot speak to that. But
if you're interested in Benghazi, there is going to be enough new
material tomorrow to make you absolutely livid that it's taken eight
months for us to get to this point.
ranking Democrat on the committee, Cummings has been lambasting
Republicans for politicizing the attacks. Expect him to describe the
hearing as an exercise in partisan politics. "[Republicans] have leaked
snippets of interview transcripts to national media outlets in a
selective and distorted manner to drum up publicity for their hearing,"
Cummings said in
a press release. "This is investigation by press release and does a
disservice to our common goal of ensuring that our diplomatic corps
serving overseas has the best protection possible to do its critical
off losing the Democratic primary in Massachusetts' special election to
replace former Senator John Kerry, Stephen Lynch has been doing battle
with Jason Chaffetz in recent days. During Wednesday's hearing, he'll likely be one of the
louder Democratic voices pushing back on Republican claims. "This has
been a one- sided investigation, if you want to call it that," Lynch told Fox on Sunday.
"There's been no sharing of information in a significant way with the
Democrats staff members who usually conduct this type of investigation.
And I think it's disgraceful, to be honest with you."
Grab some popcorn. It should be a good show.
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