House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that the chamber’s Democrats will participate in the special, Republican-led select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Soon after the announcement, Pelosi, of California, named five Democrats she appointed to the panel to join Republicans in the investigation of the attack, in which four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died when militants stormed the mission.
The five Democrats are: Linda T. Sanchez of California, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee; Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Adam B. Schiff of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a wounded combat veteran of the Iraq war who serves on Armed Services.
All the Democratic panel members except Sanchez have had some involvement in past congressional investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012 assault, according to the New York Times.
Democrats repeatedly have expressed concerns that the GOP-led inquiry is an election-year ploy to energize Republican voters.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of misleading Americans about a terror attack weeks before the election.
"I believe we need someone in that room to simply defend the truth," said Cummings at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Cummings will serve as the ranking member on the select committee. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had selected Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a seasoned prosecutor, to be the panel's chairman along with six other Republicans.
Democrats have been divided over whether to boycott the investigation, the eighth probe. Some Democrats have called the new inquiry a political sham designed to embarrass the Obama administration and rough up former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Among Democratic leaders, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina reiterated his reservations on Tuesday. Clyburn had said, "If you're going to have a hanging, don't ask me to bring the noose."
Pelosi said she "could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort?"
Other Democrats have maintained that they must participate in the select committee to ensure they have a role in questioning witnesses.
"We can't simply let the Republicans run the show," Smith said. Cummings said the select committee is unnecessary "because many of the so-called unanswered questions" have been answered in previous reports.
In a statement, Gowdy said he looked forward to working with committee members "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."
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said there was reason to suspect the House GOP's investigation "might not be divorced from politics."
"Our view has always been — and it has been not just our view, but our practice — that it is appropriate to have legitimate congressional oversight," Carney added, without elaborating on whether the Gowdy-led investigation constitutes legitimate oversight.
The Benghazi attack has become a conservative rallying cry, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about the nature of the attack and stonewalling congressional investigators.
The special investigation means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans likely to target current and former administration officials. Almost certain to be called to testify is Clinton.
The panel is authorized to work through the end of the year, past November's midterm elections, when the GOP hopes to win control of the Senate and tighten its majority grip on the House.
In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led probes have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has been arrested.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.