WASHINGTON — He’s called it a “witch hunt” that has already wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
And on Tuesday, U. S. Rep. Adam Smith of Bellevue used the third public hearing of the Select Committee on Benghazi to once again excoriate House Republicans for their ongoing investigation into the 2012 attacks at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya.
Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who was tapped by his party leaders to serve on the Benghazi panel, delivered a 10-minute disquisition on ways he said Republicans have hidden witnesses, quashed evidence and otherwise shut out Democrats from any meaningful oversight.
At the hearing, Smith accused the Benghazi panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and his fellow Republicans of focusing on a tragic incident “as much as possible for partisan and political purposes.”
“All of this points to the goal and objective of this committee,” Smith said. “It doesn’t have much to do with finding out the truth. It doesn’t have much to do with preventing future attacks.”
Smith has been among the loudest critics of the continuing investigation into the attacks, during which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. A half-dozen congressional investigations and numerous hearings have failed to find any evidence — despite repeated assertions by many Republicans — of any cover-up of security lapses by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the Obama administration.
Last week, the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee on Benghazi, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, wrote Gowdy to accuse him of breaking his pledge to “transcend politics.”
House Republicans created the Benghazi Select Committee last May, and set aside up to $3.3 million for its work in 2014. The committee, which has seven Republican and five Democratic members and a staff of two dozen, is estimated to have spent about $1.5 million so far.
Other Republican-controlled committees, including the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform and the House Intelligence Committee, have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama White House regarding the Benghazi attacks.
An exasperated Smith earlier this month threatened to pull out of the Benghazi panel. Asked about it Tuesday, his spokesman Benjamin Halle said Smith would follow direction from Cummings and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Halle reiterated Smith’s previous quote that “I think it’s a discussion we should have about whether or not there’s any utility at this point in staying on the committee.”