With Clinton in the Rearview, What Now for the Benghazi Committee?
Policy + Politics

With Clinton in the Rearview, What Now for the Benghazi Committee?

Jonathan Ernst

Even though lawmakers serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have now interviewed their star witness in Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the investigation is slated to continue, probably well into the 2016 presidential calendar.

delivered a steely performance before the panel tasked with examining the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. In the end, the 11-hour hearing may have hurt the select committee’s credibility more than Clinton’s White House bid and yielded nothing new about the deadly incident itself, as admitted by the panel’s chair.

Related: An Unflappable Hillary Clinton Frustrates the Benghazi Committee

“Well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already, about the emails. In terms of her testimony?” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) asked reporters Thursday night after the marathon session. “I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified."

Yet the 17-month-old inquiry, which 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline;">Democrats say has cost $4.8 million and counting, promises to go on, as Gowdy stated the select committee has a “couple dozen” witnesses left to interview about the siege that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“From my standpoint, we keep going on until we’re able to interview all the witnesses we think have access to relevant information -- importantly, access to documents,” according to Gowdy.

“We’re not done. We still have a lot of work to do,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) told reporters on Friday, describing Clinton as “just a part of the investigation,” though she was unaware who the committee might call next.

Related: Clinton’s Benghazi Hearing Lays Bare the Politics at Play

In February, Gowdy sent Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), the panel’s top Democrat, a letter listing 20 witnesses he wanted to interview, including a number of high-profile current and former administration officials.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) said the select committee would announce the dates for its interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA chief David Petraeus “very soon,” but guessed those sessions would take place behind closed doors, unlike Clinton’s public hearing.

“Those will be in classified settings because those are about issues that we can’t discuss in public,” she said, adding portions on the interviews could be opened.

Brooks said lawmakers would “love” to get all of the outstanding interviews done this year, but didn’t rule out the possibility of them going into 2016.

Related: So, Who Is Sidney Blumenthal and What Does He Have to Do With Benghazi?

Earlier this year a GOP spokesperson for the panel signaled its final report wouldn’t be done until sometime in 2016. Gowdy himself has suggested the findings might not be definitive enough for some people.

As for the panel’s five Democrats, they’re in the dark.

“Everything’s been building up to today. [The Republicans] haven’t told us. My guess is they don’t even know themselves where they want to go from here,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Thursday night in an interview with MSNBC.

“They may lose interest now that the big day has come and gone,” he added.

Asked if public and media attention would decrease following Clinton’s testimony, Cummings replied, “I don’t have a clue.”

“You tell me,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). “If you want to sum it up, it’s what chairman Gowdy said at the end of it: what did you learn new today? Nothing.”

Related: House Republicans Give Clinton Another Gift on Benghazi

Cummings and other panel Democrats met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) behind closed doors for about an hour on Friday, possibly to determine if they should boycott all future proceedings.

Such a decision would have been another sign Democrats believe they have the political upper-hand when it comes to the Republican-led select committee. The panel’s existence has come under intense scrutiny, following remarks by GOP lawmakers and a Republican ex-staffer that it was formed to damage Clinton’s poll numbers.

Instead, Democrats issued a statement again calling on outgoing House Speaker John Boehner to dissolve the select committee, a non-starter with the Ohio Republican.

“If the Speaker rejects our request, Democrats will continue to participate at this point in order to make sure the facts are known and the conspiracy theories are debunked,” they said.

In the meantime, according to Roby, Republicans plan to go over the transcript of Clinton’s testimony “with a fine-toothed comb.”

For Cummings, who acted Clinton’s biggest defender during Thursday’s hearing, talk of future steps can wait a little while longer. “I’m thoroughly exhausted from Benghazi. Thoroughly. And I want to spend some time with my wife,” he told reporters on Friday.