Trey Gowdy Interim Progress Update, May 8, 2015, The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi, Administration impedes Committee’s progress by repeatedly failing to answer requests or to provide information in a timely manner

Trey Gowdy Interim Progress Update, May 8, 2015, The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi,  Administration impedes  Committee’s progress by repeatedly failing to answer  requests or to provide information in a timely manner


From  The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi, Chairman Trey Gowdy Interim Progress Update, May 8, 2015.

“Chairman’s Message

The House of Representatives created and authorized the Select Committee on Benghazi to provide the final, definitive accounting of what happened before, during and after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four brave Americans dead. The Speaker of the House of Representatives was unmistakably clear when he constituted the Committee that he wanted the Committee to pursue all relevant facts wherever they lead.

As Chairman I pledged an investigation worthy of the sacrifice made by these men and worthy of the trust of my fellow citizens. That remains my pledge. It is a promise I made to the family members of those who were killed representing our country. It is the promise I make whenever I am asked about Benghazi all across our country.

In upholding that promise, the Committee has interviewed eyewitnesses never before interviewed, obtained tens of thousands of documents from the State Department and White House never before provided, and reviewed FBI reports specific to the interrogation and prosecution of Abu Khattala. In addition to interviewing witnesses never before interviewed, these interviews have led to additional witnesses and additional lines of inquiry, which must be followed.

The Committee, however, faces obstacles and frustrations. It is difficult to conduct a fact-centric congressional investigation when the Administration impedes the Committee’s progress by repeatedly failing to answer the Committee’s requests or to provide information in a timely manner. Further, the legislative branch’s constitutional toolbox seems inadequate to uphold our task in seeking the truth.

Although I knew it would lead to understandable criticism, I have chosen to conduct the majority of this investigation using transcribed interviews, which are conducted privately, rather than public hearings. Transcribed interviews afford more time to both the person asking the questions as well as the person providing the answers. Simply put, if you want to uncover the most facts, you would choose something other than 10 minutes of questioning by a member of Congress. So while tremendous progress has been made, both in the quantity and quality of transcribed interviews, those interviews must remain private until such time as a final report has been written in fairness to both the conduct of a proper investigation and to all relevant parties. I have made this a fundamental principle for the Committee and its staff because serious investigations do not leak information or make selective releases of information without full and proper context.

While our investigatory approach has uncovered new witnesses, new documents, new facts and will result in the most detailed and complete accounting of what happened in Benghazi, the frustration that some feel at not seeing the work unfold on television or reading about new discoveries in print is understandable. The approach we are taking, while short on drama, aims to discover all of the relevant facts and to be long on credibility when the final report is written. The Committee now must also consider certain issues related to whether the former Secretary of State’s unusual email arrangement with herself, which even the State Department itself has now called “unacceptable,” has affected either the factual record on Benghazi or response to congressional inquiries more broadly. Ultimately, this Committee’s interest is in ensuring all relevant and material information related to Libya and Benghazi that was in the personal custody of the former Secretary of State has been returned to the public domain.

The largest impediment to being able to write the final, definitive accounting of what happened before, during and after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi is the Executive Branch itself. Some have suggested the Committee should make use of compulsory process (subpoena) rather than letters, requests for information or compliance hearings. As I have said before, the power to subpoena is only as good as the power to compel compliance. The constitutional tools provided the Legislative Branch are inadequate and timeconsuming. Compelling compliance with subpoenas requires either the cooperation of the Executive Branch – particularly the United States Attorney – the very entity from which we seek the information and an unlikely ally, or pursuing document production from the Executive Branch via civil contempt, a laborious, slow process and counterproductive to the goal of an expeditious investigation.

In the context of this investigation, neither appears likely to get the Committee closer to the documents requested in a reasonable timeframe. The Committee has tried both having and threatening public compliance hearings. The curious response from the Executive Branch is that preparing for a public compliance hearing will result in even more delay on the production of requested documents.

In addition to highlighting the public’s right to know substantial pieces of information still to be disclosed, the House should also consider motivating the Executive Branch through the appropriations process. The Committee has shared its frustration with both House and Senate appropriators in an effort to incent the Executive Branch to comply with legitimate document requests. If the Administration is seriously interested in assisting this Committee in concluding its work as efficiently and effectively as possible, a significant improvement in compliance efforts is necessary.

Taken as a whole, the Committee’s record and the interim update provided in this document show the Committee is focused on building the most comprehensive record and presenting all the facts related to the Benghazi terrorist attacks. My goal has always been – and continues to be – to conclude the investigation in 2015. It is increasingly apparent our ability to meet that goal depends on the cooperation of the Administration. The level of cooperation to date has been underwhelming. That must change.

Executive Summary At the direction of the House, the Committee has undertaken a broad review of issues relating to the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The Committee’s jurisdiction is designed to facilitate an independent and comprehensive review of the attacks across the spectrum of Executive Branch agencies. The Committee began its work by assessing the record previously developed by House committees and obtaining compliance with still outstanding document and information requests previously issued by those committees. The Committee has also conducted interviews with a number of witnesses with respect to the discrete events in Benghazi and the broader issues the House has charged the Committee to review. Both efforts have been impacted by the pace of Executive Branch compliance. For example, the Committee just this month received more than 4,000 pages of documents responsive to a subpoena initially issued in August 2013.

Despite these Executive Branch delays, the Committee has assembled a substantial amount of new information not previously available to Congress through document production and interviews with eyewitnesses never before obtained by a committee.

From these assessments, the Committee has sought and moved ahead with targeted requests for additional information through document, communications and interview requests. The Committee has issued more than a dozen document requests, a number of which remain outstanding, though partial compliance has been received for more than half. The Committee has held more than 30 meetings and briefings with Executive Branch officials and has identified another 60 current and former Executive Branch officials to interview, including key individuals who have never before been questioned by Congress. These are in addition to the interviews the Committee has already conducted.

An additional focus of the Committee has been to address and improve agency response times to congressional requests. In certain instances, document requests have been pending for almost two years. This type of response time is not conducive to a timely investigation. Moreover, recent revelations by the former Secretary of State raise questions about the comprehensiveness of the production by the State Department and whether the Committee has in its possession the complete universe of information relevant to the investigation. Despite these obstacles, the Committee continues to uncover and integrate new information into its investigation. Keeping these factors in mind, the Committee aims to conclude its evidence-gathering as expeditiously as possible and issue a final report soon thereafter.”

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