Ending heated debate within her caucus, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named five Democrats Wednesday to the special committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.
Pelosi, D-Calif., tapped Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Adam Smith of Washington, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Adam Schiff of California; Linda Sanchez of California; and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a wounded Iraq war veteran.
House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of the committee last earlier this month and named Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to head the panel, which has seven Republicans.
Cummings will serve as the committee’s ranking Democrat. As the oversight’s committee’s lead Democrat he’s already sparred with Republicans – most notably oversight committee Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif. - and is familiar with the courtroom style of Gowdy, a former prosecutor.
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‘I respect Mr. Cummings and his work in Congress,’ Gowdy said in a statement. ‘I look forward to working with him and the members of the committee toward an investigation and a process worthy of the American people and the four brave Americans who lost their lives in service of our country.’
Pelosi appointed the five Democrats after wrestling with whether to her caucus would participate in a panel that many in her party consider a politically-motivated show-trial designed largely to rev up the Republican Party base and wound former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Four Americans – including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens – were killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission and CIA annex in Benghazi.
In the end, Pelosi said she opted to have Democrats serve on the committee as a way to fight "abuses" of the Benghazi investigation that she and Democrats say had been committed by Issa’s committee. Issa wasn’t one of the seven Republicans Boehner appointed to the committee.
‘I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort?’ Pelosi said of her decision. ‘But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in as fair and open and balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to the Republicans.’
Boehner welcomed Pelosi’s decision.
‘The American people deserve the truth, and we are glad House Democrats have chosen to participate in this serious, substantive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2012,’ said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman.