Pelosi: Democrats may quit Benghazi panel with Clinton done

Posted at 10:49 AM, Oct 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-23 11:49:21-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House Benghazi committee may quit the panel after Hillary Rodham Clinton endured a grueling interrogation by Republican lawmakers at a marathon congressional hearing, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Democrats "may decide that now, defending the truth, their job is done, they're going to move on," Pelosi told reporters. "I have to talk to them and see what risk they see if we would walk away because we see the distortion, just the really disconnect with reality that exists on that committee."

Pelosi said she is "taking my lead" from the five Democrats on the GOP-led panel investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he and others on the Benghazi panel "learned absolutely nothing" during Thursday's contentious 11-hour hearing or the 17-month investigation that preceded it.

Other Democrats, who had labeled the probe a partisan effort to undermine Clinton's presidential campaign, echoed Smith's complaint after the former secretary of state finished her testimony.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's top Democrat, said no decision has been made on whether Democrats boycott the investigation.

Clinton had confrontational exchanges with several GOP lawmakers, but also heard supportive statements from Democrats. The questioning was, by turns, harsh and sympathetic, depending on who was asking.

Clinton firmly defended her record while steadfastly dodging any misstatement or display of anger that might damage her White House prospects. The most combative moments zeroed in on the Obama administration's shifting initial accounts of the September 2012 attack that cost the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But there were few specific questions about what transpired on Sept. 11-12, 2012, events that Clinton said causes her to lose sleep to this day.

"I would imagine I've thought more about what happened than all of you put together," she told the committee. "I've lost more sleep than all of you put together."

The panel's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, said the committee was focused on facts, not politics, as he sought to deflect recent comments by fellow Republicans describing the investigation as an effort to lower Clinton's poll standings.

Democrats noted that the probe has now cost taxpayers more than $4.5 million and has lasted longer than the 1970s Watergate era investigation.

"The reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who has called for the committee to be disbanded. The American people are entitled to the truth about Benghazi, he said, but "they're also entitled to the truth about our committee."

Gowdy said important questions remain unanswered: Why was the U.S. in Libya? Why were security requests denied? Why was the military not ready to respond quickly on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks? And why did the administration change its story about the nature of the attacks in the weeks afterward?

"These questions linger," he argued, "because previous investigations were not thorough." He dismissed as ineffective the work of seven previous investigations, including several led by current and former Republican colleagues.

Gowdy called Thursday's marathon session — with just a single witness, Clinton — "a constructive interaction." But said he did not know whether the embattled panel gained credibility.

Cummings, who frequently guided Clinton though friendly questions, said he thought she "did an outstanding job."

Clinton kept her cool throughout, but sparks flew briefly after Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, accused her of deliberately misleading the public by linking the Benghazi violence at first to an Internet video insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Clinton said that "some" people had wanted to use the video to justify the attack" and said she rejected that justification.

Speaking directly to Jordan, she said, "The insinuations that you are making do a great disservice" to the diplomats and others involved. "I'm sorry that it doesn't fit your narrative," she added. "I can only tell you what the facts were."