Government & Politics

The Benghazi Committee is done, but Trey Gowdy isn’t finished with Hillary Clinton

House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., discusses the release of his final report on the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on June 28, 2016, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., discusses the release of his final report on the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on June 28, 2016, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

The Benghazi Committee released its final report in June, but Rep. Trey Gowdy is far from done with Hillary Clinton.

Through committee hearings, and regular television appearances to discuss them, the South Carolina Republican has remained the Democratic nominee’s chief antagonist in Congress in the months leading up to the election.

It was the investigation by Gowdy, as chairman of the Benghazi Committee, that accidentally uncovered Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. Democrats criticized the two-year Benghazi probe as a “partisan witch hunt” that ultimately did not pin the blame on Clinton for the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, defended the impartiality of his committee and said it was about “the facts and only the facts,” not politics.

Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., give their opening statements at the Benghazi hearing on October 22, 2015. Rep. Gowdy defended the committee and Rep. Cummings defended Clinton while the former Secretary o

But since the summer, he has worked to keep the focus on Clinton’s email scandal by picking apart the technology used by her staff, the FBI’s recommendation not to press charges, the Justice Department’s decision to grant immunity to some of her staffers and the classifications and redactions in her investigative file.

“As I have said countless times before, this is not about politics,” he told McClatchy on Monday. “This is not even about any one individual or a single investigation.”

Through it all, Gowdy has been the public face of Republicans accusing those government agencies of showing Clinton favoritism.

“The State Department, which is supposed to be apolitical and non-interested in the next presidential election, has been covering for Hillary Clinton since she left office,” Gowdy said on Fox News last week, adding that the department had “aided and abetted” a cover-up of Clinton’s emails.

His clashes with FBI director James Comey, who has been summoned to testify three times since the agency’s decision not to press charges against Clinton, have been widely celebrated by conservative media.

“What would she have had to do to warrant your recommendation for prosecution?” Gowdy asked Comey during a House Oversight Committee hearing last week.

Comey rejected the idea that the bureau would reopen the probe into Clinton’s email server. The usually impassive FBI director seemed to run out of patience at Gowdy and his Republican colleagues’ repeated suggestions that the agency was betraying its mission.

“I hope someday when this political craziness is over, you will look back again on this, because this is the FBI you know and love,” Comey shot back when Gowdy said that “some things were done differently” in the Clinton investigation. “This was done by pros in the right way,” Comey said. “We do not carry water for one side or the other.”

Gowdy maintains that the purpose of the repeated hearings is to give the FBI and the Justice Department a chance to explain how they came to their conclusions.

“While the investigation is closed, the Department of Justice and the FBI must explain the granting of immunity despite no prosecutions . . . and most importantly what evidence specifically was missing that would have been needed for a prosecutable case and what deterrent exists if future Cabinet-level officials opt for a similar arrangement,” he told McClatchy on Monday.

The House Oversight Committee also focused on the Justice Department’s decision to give a form of immunity to two of Clinton’s lawyers, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, to get computers that contain emails related to the case.

“Laptops don’t go to the Bureau of Prisons,” Gowdy said at a hearing last week. “The immunity was not for the laptop, it was for Cheryl Mills.”

Last month, Gowdy homed in on the fact the Justice Department had granted immunity to the IT specialist who deleted Clinton’s emails from her private server.

“This is prosecutor 101. You don’t give immunity to the person who actually robbed the bank,” Gowdy said on Fox News. “You may want to give it to the getaway driver. You may want to give it to the person who helped count the money afterwards, but you don’t give immunity to the person who walked in and robbed the bank. That’s not that complicated, but that’s apparently what the FBI did.”

Such exchanges, which often go viral online, made Gowdy a conservative hero as the chair of the Benghazi Committee and gave him a massive online following for a congressman. This includes more than 1 million Facebook followers, who widely share videos of his hearings and television appearances.

Gowdy was also prominently featured in a Trump campaign video over the summer that contrasted his interrogation of Comey with Clinton’s statements. Despite branding him “Benghazi loser” after he supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for president ahead of South Carolina’s Republican primary in February, Trump suggested on Twitter he would consider Gowdy for attorney general.

Congress adjourned last week and will not be back until after the election. There will be no more hearings related to Clinton’s use of her email server and the decisions not to prosecute her or her staff.

“Are you powerless? What is the end game?” Fox News host Maria Bartiromo asked Gowdy on Sunday. “Are you going to be able to do anything? There are 38 days left until the election, and Hillary Clinton may be the president.”

Gowdy, as he did at the conclusion of the Benghazi Committee, said he had done his job as a prosecutor and that it was about the integrity of the justice system.

“What can we do? I can do the same thing I did in my previous job: I can lay out the facts and the evidence for the jury and let them decide whether or not they think this person is qualified to be the leader of the free world with all of the false statements, with all of the concealment,” he said.

“If you are tired of a politicized Department of Justice, you need to replace that Department of Justice, and that’s what the jury gets to do on Nov. 8,” he said.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

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