Pentagon Condemns House Benghazi Committee’s Wasteful “Speculative” Investigation

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

Many Americans have complained over the past eight years that there is no longer such a thing as  a “regular election cycle in America.” Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, campaigns begin when a Democrat is declared the winner on election night. The current Republican Party’s 2016 campaign for the White House began in earnest in 2012 when an anti-Muslim video incited protests and a terrorist attack on an American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi Libya that claimed four American lives.

Republicans have admitted, on several occasions by the way, that the House Benghazi committee’s investigation was a long-term campaign to damage Hillary Clinton even before she announced a run for the White House. The committee’s chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has stated that he found nothing, but still, his committee is busy on a taxpayer-funded Republican “campaign” against Mrs. Clinton. The cost, according to estimates as of last year was approximately $6.7 million and it was enough of a waste of money to inspire a high-ranking Defense Department official to include the waste of money in a letter criticizing Gowdy’s tactics on the Benghazi Select committee. The Pentagon is weary of the three-plus years of several committees’ demands to waste their valuable time, money, and personnel.

The top Defense Department official criticizing the Benghazi committee’s investigation as wasteful, unproductive, unfair and inefficient is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Stephen Hedger.  Hedger charged the Republicans with “employing a variety of unproductive tactics including continuous threats against Pentagon employees, multiple and changing requests, and interviews prompting speculation by witnesses.” Mr. Hedger also said the Pentagon is openly questioning whether the Republican Benghazi committee’s “final report will be based in fact.” It is a serious question that fairly could be translated as calling the Republicans’ actions criminal.

In the Pentagon letter to the committee, specifically addressed to Republican chairman Trey Gowdy and issued Thursday, Hedger wrote,

While I understand your stated intent is to conduct the most comprehensive review of the attack and response, Congress has as much an obligation as the Executive Branch to use federal resources and taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently. (author bold)

The Department is working diligently to accommodate your staff’s multiple and changing requests; however, we are concerned by the continuous threats from your staff to subpoena witnesses that we are not able accommodate.”

Mr. Hedger particularly took issue with the committee’s demand for an interview with an anonymous Sean Hannity radio call-in “individual;” an anonymous individual Hedger said the Pentagon “expended significant resources to locate to no avail.  The Department of Defense continues to believe that interviewing these ‘individuals’ is unnecessary because it is unclear what additional information could be gained from these interviews.”

Hedger requested a meeting with Gowdy to identify a “productive way to help it finish its investigation” while respecting the men and women and resources of the Department of Defense.” It is noteworthy that the $6.7 million cost as of last year did not include the Pentagon’s cost in searching out individuals with no clear connection to the Defense Department or the events surrounding the Benghazi attack. It is likely that Republicans will expend any sum during an election to attack Mrs. Clinton even if it robs money and critical assets from the military.

In the strongest language possible, the Pentagon is criticizing the Republicans for “prompting and encouraging Department of Defense interviewees to go on the record and speculate on hypotheticals posed by Committee members regardless of the interviewees’ actual knowledge or expertise.” Hedger concluded his condemnation by “respectfully requesting that you ensure pending interviews remain focused on facts; rather than ‘encouraging’ speculation.”

The highest-ranking Democrat on the Benghazi Select Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) accused the campaigning Republicans of

Dragging out their sham of an investigation closer to the election. The Department of Defense has a critical job to do, which is to keep our nation safe from those who would do us harm. But Republicans continue to squander millions of taxpayer dollars chasing right-wing conspiracy theories and forcing Pentagon officials to waste their time on this partisan fishing expedition.”

Gowdy keeps promising to issue a “final report” on the committee’s findings, but as the Pentagon noted, they will certainly not be “based on facts.” It was telling and prescient that the Pentagon had to inform House Republicans, and Americans, that even the Department of Defense comprehends that the Republicans are using the committee and taxpayers’ money for a campaign against Hillary Clinton.

The speculation about the Benghazi committee’s investigation and ‘promised’ report is that it will continue in operation right up to, and likely after, the general election in November; Republicans are that vindictive and that predictable. For dog’s sake it has been ongoing without the results Republicans want for two years, and that is in addition to the four separate House committees investigating Benghazi; the Armed Services Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Intelligence Committee, and Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Those committees, and all those wasted taxpayer dollars, found exactly what the Benghazi Select committee discovered; nothing whatsoever. Still, there is an election looming and with little novel to attack Hillary Clinton on after 23 years of debunked smears, Republicans in the House will continue using taxpayer dollars to fund their general election political campaign. The atrocity is that there is absolutely nothing the Federal Elections Commission can do about congressional Republicans using taxpayer funds for their political campaign.

Voters could do something about it, but this is America where a growing class of voters reliably votes against its own best interests. If the past two elections are any indication, even tax-wasting lazy House Republicans are going to easily win re-election and maintain their hold on that chamber. The Benghazi Select committee is not going anywhere soon and a Clinton victory in November informs Republicans will be entrenched in an expensive House Benghazi Select investigation founded on “hypotheticals and speculation” continuing for several years to come.