At this point, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) must be wondering why he bothers. The chair of the House Select Committee that is investigating the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012 has gone to great lengths to create the appearance of a committee dedicated to uncovering the truth and to avoid creating the perception that the committee is an exercise in partisanship meant to derail Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
He has assiduously avoided mentioning Clinton’s name in hearings and has pushed back hard against Democrats’ claims that the 17-month, $4.5 million investigation is a witch hunt. But his fellow Republicans keep making it tough for him.
Just a few weeks ago, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in an appearance on Fox News, gave the committee credit for driving down Clinton’s poll numbers, in a way that made it sound as though that was the whole point of the investigation.
Just as McCarthy’s comments were subsiding, a conservative Republican Air Force major who had worked on the committee announced that he was filing a lawsuit claiming that he was wrongfully terminated. The reason? Objecting to what he characterized as the committee’s obsession with targeting Clinton.
Gowdy spent much of the weekend pushing back against that story, challenging the honesty of the former staffer’s account and vigorously defending the committee’s conduct.
But as soon as those headlines began to fade, another Republican member of the House repeated the claim that the purpose of the hearings was to damage Clinton.
In an interview with the Utica, N.Y., radio station WIBX, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) said, “Kevin McCarthy basically blew himself up with that comment over the Benghazi committee … Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth.”
“This may not be politically correct,” Hanna said, “but I think there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
“After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not,” he said. “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.”
Hanna didn’t completely dismiss the committee’s mission, however, saying, “I also think there is a lot of it that is important, and we needed to get to the bottom of this.”
The Clinton campaign was quick to jump on the comments, saying in a statement, “Yet another House Republican has admitted the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a politically motivated sham intended to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.”
Hanna’s comments give Clinton a boost as she prepares for her testimony before the Benghazi Committee on October 26. The growing sense that the committee is, at least in part, a political witch hunt gives her an obvious target for pushback against any negative stories that come out of the hearing next week, and might make her seem like a more sympathetic figure in the public eye when the inevitable footage of the questioning is aired.