Gowdy defends Benghazi panel amidst GOP criticism

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, forcefully defended the panel’s work Thursday, a day after another Republican colleague said the investigation was designed in part “to go after” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said comments by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., were “unfortunate” and misinformed.

Gowdy said the investigation is being done in a “private, fact-centric way.”

Commentators and even members of his own caucus sometimes “offer thoughts on matters on which they are not familiar,” he said.

“My team of investigators, drawn from the military, federal agencies and the congressional oversight and ethics committees, has worked hard and in an above-board manner,” Gowdy said in a statement. “It is unfortunate when claims are made by those who do not know what the committee has done, why it has done it or the results of its work.”

Gowdy’s comments marked the second time in a few weeks that he has defended his committee’s work after complaints by a fellow Republican. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said late last month that the Benghazi panel could take credit for Clinton’s recent drop in public opinion polls. He later retracted the comment.

Gowdy said last week that McCarthy, who later withdrew from an expected bid for House speaker, “screwed up” in making the Benghazi comments.

In an interview Wednesday with New York radio station WIBX’s “Keeler in the Morning” show, Hanna said McCarthy “basically blew himself up with that comment over the Benghazi committee,” then added: “Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth. This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

Hanna said the Benghazi probe has gone on “longer than Watergate.”

When the host, Bill Keeler, mentioned a former Republican staffer who has accused the panel of a partisan focus on Clinton, Hanna said: “After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not. And 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.”

The criticism from Republicans emerged days before Clinton’s scheduled appearance before the Benghazi panel on Oct. 22 and amid fierce partisan fighting about the true nature of the investigation.

Clinton and other Democrats call it a partisan political exercise designed to “exploit” the deaths of four Americans and hurt her bid for the White House.

Gowdy and other Republicans say the committee has been and remains focused on those killed in Benghazi and on providing a definitive account of the attacks. There have been at least seven previous investigations.