Hillary Clinton’s upcoming testimony before Congress’ special Benghazi committee is being hyped as the biggest moment in the panel’s controversial existence. But the committee’s Republican leaders said Sunday they are equally, if not more, focused on new evidence and continued pursuit of the facts behind the fatal 2012 attacks.
“We have found new facts that have absolutely nothing to do with her,” South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, told CBS' “Face the Nation.”
“I get that people don't want to talk about that. But the seven [Republican] members of my committee are much more focused on the four dead Americans than we are anyone's presidential aspirations.”
Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner, is scheduled to testify Thursday about her role as secretary of state during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Gowdy said Sunday that the 12-member bipartisan committee has acquired Stephens’ emails from that time and suggested dozens more witnesses will be called.
Clinton is "an important witness, but she is one witness,” he also said. “I understand that there's more attention associated with her. But from my perspective, I am much more interested in Chris Stevens' emails, which we just received, than I am her emails, which we just received.”
He also suggested that new emails show Clinton and other members of the administration were too focused on the politics of Benghazi.
Gowdy said Stevens even joked in an email that maybe he and others at the Benghazi outpost “should ask another government to pay for our security upgrades because our government isn't willing to do it.”
“You want to know what happened in Libya, you got to look at his emails,” Gowdy continued.
The special committee discovered that Clinton as the country’s top diplomat used a private server and emails for official business. But since being formed last year, the committee has faced criticism about being a political tool for Republicans to tarnish Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Democrats and other critics say House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., proved the argument a few weeks ago when he suggested that Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped as the committee and others investigate the email controversy.
Their argument and calls to shutter the committee have been further bolstered recently by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., suggesting the committee is politically motivated and a fired committee investigator suggesting Republican members were overly focused on Clinton.
This weekend, Democrats also argued that the select committee probe has lasted longer than the congressional Watergate investigation.
However, Republican committee member and Rep. Mike Pompeo said Sunday that Democrats “hiding the ball” has slowed investigative efforts and that GOP leaders have no plans to close the committee.
“We’re not done,” the Kansas lawmaker told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We still have many witnesses and many documents. We’re just getting started.”
In addition, Gowdy on Sunday told fellow Republicans uninformed about exactly what the committee is doing to "shut up."
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, still thinks the panel is too focused on Clinton and a waste of taxpayer money.
“After 17 months, $4.7 million and counting of taxpayer money .. Chairman Gowdy is now saying he has another two dozen witnesses to interview,” he told CBS on Sunday.
He also said Gowdy is “now trying to shift back to where we should have been all along -- that is looking at the Benghazi incident.”
As proof, Cummings said the committee has yet to call to testify the CIA director, secretary of defense and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the attacks.