Democrats to join Benghazi select committee
Willie Grace | 5/22/2014, 12:25 p.m. | Updated on 5/22/2014, 12:25 p.m.
Democrats will participate in the Republican-led House Select Committee investigation of the deadly Benghazi terror attack.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would name five lawmakers to the 12-member panel looking into the 2012 armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya.
The attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans has become a partisan flashpoint around the Obama administration's conduct of foreign policy.
Republicans have sharply criticized his administration's handling of the matter from security preparations beforehand, to its response during the attack, and its slow-to-evolve public explanation after-the-fact.
They have zeroed-in on the State Department, especially Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and is considering a run for president in 2016.
Pelosi said her caucus was divided on whether to participate, but explained that Democrats concluded in the end they needed to be at the table to provide balance.
She also stressed that protecting Clinton politically was not part of the calculus.
"We don't think that Secretary Hillary Clinton or Secretary (of State) John Kerry or the others need our help in the room," Pelosi said.
Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wants to call Clinton, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and Cheryl Mills, who was Clinton's chief of staff at the time, to testify.
Democrats charged that the decision by House Speaker John Boehner to pursue a new investigation was overly partisan and unnecessary, considering the multiple congressional investigations of the matter that have taken place.
But Boehner said the decision to launch a new investigation follows the disclosure of information recently that Republicans say supports their contention the White House politicized its public response to the armed assault.
Democrats have been pressing for a greater role in how the committee operates, especially around subpoenas.
A senior GOP aide told CNN that "we have offered assurances on committee procedures, but no substantive changes that could hurt the investigation."
Pelosi told reporters that she didn't reach a deal with Boehner to prevent what she called the "unacceptable and repeated abuses" that occurred under the investigation led by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.
The following Democrats will serve on the panel: Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff and Linda Sanchez of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he was "highly skeptical" of GOP motivations. He took a jab at the Republicans tapped by Boehner, saying, "they are very lacking in experience on national security or foreign policy matters for the most part."
Cummings, who clashed often with Issa on the Oversight panel, said Gowdy told him that he was "hopeful that we would be able to have a situation where there would be fairness."
A Gowdy aide said Republicans would meet on Thursday to discuss organizational and staffing issues involving their side of the committee.
Other Republicans on the panel include Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
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