Benghazi panel to grill Clinton, amid claims of partisanship

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton heads to Capitol Hill where she will testify on Benghazi amid claims that the Republican-controlled House Benghazi Committee was more interested in damaging Clinton’s reputation than uncovering the truth that deadly night.

UNITED STATES (AUGUST 28, 2015) (ONE AMERICA NEWS NETWORK) – As Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton prepares to testify in front of the House Benghazi Committee on Thursday (October 22), the Republican-led panel finds itself plagued by accusations, not just from Democrats but also fellow Republicans, that the investigation into the attack in Libya had turned into a political witch hunt.

Clinton was secretary of state in September 2012 when U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were attacked, killing four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In addition, Clinton’s use of her private email for her work as America’s top diplomat came to light in March and drew fire from political opponents who accused her of sidestepping transparency and record-keeping laws.

The email issue has re-ignited concerns over Clinton. A number of polls in recent months have found that more than half of voters find her untrustworthy, although she remains the favorite to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidential election in November 2016.

Critics of the committee say its focus on Clinton’s emails has stripped the committee of its credibility.

“I think the House Republicans would have perfectly been in their right and easily been able to explain why they needed to see Clinton’s e-mails, but now the problem is all of the interest is on Clinton’s e-mails and it’s almost as if the Ambassador’s death is forgotten by the House,” said Brookings political analyst John Hudak.

Democrats have long argued that the 17-month-old probe is a political tool to damage Clinton the candidate.

The Republican leadership has repeatedly denied the charge, but has recently been overshadowed by seemingly incriminating comments from within the party itself.

The committee has come under especially harsh criticism since Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, suggested in a recent television interview that the probe had helped to drive down Clinton’s presidential poll ratings.

“When you have someone like a Majority Leader of the House of Representatives essentially alluding to the fact that a committee was created to investigate the death of an ambassador but was really created to hurt a presidential candidate’s poll numbers, that is jarring and it reeks of political malfeasance and it’s something that Democrats hate and it’s something independent voters hate even if Republicans don’t believe that that’s truly the intent,” said Hudak.

McCarthy later said he had not meant to suggest the committee’s purpose had been to harm Clinton’s White House bid and shortly after, on October 8, bowed out of the Speaker race, leaving the Republicans in disarray.

But it was too late — the Clinton campaign pounced on McCarthy’s comments and turned them into a web ad criticizing Republican remarks on investigations.

Conservative observers say the Clinton campaign has used the controversy for its own political benefit.

“This is a way to, kind of, deflect attention from other investigations to try and put them all into this one box of —this is all just partisan attacks,” Alana Goodman of the conservative news website, the Washington Free Beacon, told Reuters.

On the heels of McCarthy’s comments, the New York Times and CNN reported that a former investigator for the committee was accusing the Republican-led panel of targeting Democrat Hillary Clinton to scupper her presidential bid.

They said Major Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve on active duty in Germany, alleged that he was fired for resisting pressure to focus his investigation into the attack on Clinton’s role.

The committee’s chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican, now finds himself in a tight spot, as he tries to distance himself from the allegations of partisanship.

Gowdy fought back allegations that with its focus on Clinton’s e-mails, the committee had lost sight of its original aim-the investigation into Benghazi- and said he was only interested in her e-mails “to the extent that they relate to Libya and Benghazi.”

Clinton successfully handled questions on both Benghazi and her use of a private e-mail server during the CNN debate on October 13 in Las Vegas, even securing unexpected support from chief rival Bernie Sanders over the e-mail scandal during their first debate.

Her strong post-debate poll numbers eased fears among some Democrats that the e-mail controversy was torpedoing her bid to represent the party in the 2016 election.

“I think Hillary Clinton would have rather the last three months have been different. House Republicans would rather the last three weeks been a lot different too,” said Hudak.

Political observers will now be watching whether the Republicans will inadvertently lend Clinton another helping hand during the testimony that will be open to the media.

“I think this was a strategic move by the campaign. The campaign – they were the ones that actually pushed for this hearing to be public with her. I think they do want to paint this as partisan. I think there’s a good chance that some Republicans who are on the committee might give them fodder for this. There are four Republicans who are on the Benghazi committee who are running for Speaker and this will give people a platform, if they want to use it, to kinda grandstand and I think that is probably what the Clinton campaign is hoping for,” said Goodman.