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Abusing Power: How The Benghazi Committee Works ‘The New York Times’

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Abusing Power: How The Benghazi Committee Works ‘The New York Times’

Sidney Blumenthal

Not since Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr used Washington reporters – including reporters at The New York Timesto run his political errands has a newspaper so eagerly sustained an abuse of power as the Times has done lately for the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Instead of asking why the Republican congressional leadership still squanders millions of taxpayer dollars on a wholly redundant investigation, the paper of record has lent its pages to selective and defamatory leaks from the committee majority.

The immediate victim of their chicanery is Sidney Blumenthal, but of course their true target is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On June 16 Blumenthal testified before the committee for nine hours. When he emerged from the closed hearing room, it swiftly became obvious that the Republican conspiracy theory about him, promoted by the committee’s GOP majority in copious leaks to the Times, had proved false in every salient detail.

Back when the Times published its initial May 19 report on this matter by Nicholas Confessore and Michael S. Schmidt, their story stoked suspicions that in his private emails to Clinton about Libya, Blumenthal was promoting the fortunes of his “business associates,” who had, in the imagination of Gowdy and his staff, employed him to obtain favors from her.

Blumenthal’s sworn testimony debunked the suggestion that he had been involved in any Libyan “business venture,” that he had derived monetary profit from any such venture, or that he had used his friendship with Clinton to advance his mythical business interests when she served as Secretary of State. There was no Libyan enterprise; there were no Blumenthal business associates; there were no favors asked by him or delivered by her; and there was not a dime derived from any Libyan venture by him, ever – as I noted both here and in Politico magazine.

In the massive trove of pirated and subpoenaed emails between Blumenthal and Clinton, there was moreover no plausible evidence to support those insinuations – yet the Times’ Washington bureau gave credibility to the committee’s fantasies, perhaps knowing that would attract still more leaks.

In the days before the closed hearing, Times reporter Schmidt contacted Blumenthal’s lawyer James Cole, a former deputy attorney general. Schmidt said he had learned that Blumenthal and Cole planned to assert journalistic privilege in refusing to identify the sources of the “intelligence reports” on Libya sent in Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton. Schmidt also suggested that such a claim by Cole would be hypocritical, since Cole had opposed an assertion of journalistic privilege during his tenure at the Justice Department.

Schmidt also told Cole he had learned that Blumenthal “got $60,000” from the Libyan business venture. And he indicated that the Times was prepared to publish both allegations. After the attorney informed him that he was wrong about both the privilege claim and the money, Schmidt published nothing. But he was doggedly pursuing the committee’s farfetched notions – and trolling Blumenthal’s attorney – until the eve of the hearing.

As Blumenthal stated after completing his testimony, he answered every single question. Most had nothing to do with the purported subject of the hearing. Indeed, lacking any proof to support the conspiracy theories publicized in the Times, the committee’s Republican members posed remarkably few questions to Blumenthal about that topic. They spent practically no time discussing the September 2012 murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the alleged focus of the committee’s concern, because Blumenthal has no special knowledge about that tragedy.

The Republican members and their staff were apparently surprised to learn from Blumenthal that in fact he has never set foot in Libya. They were also stunned when he informed them that he did not write the “intelligence reports” included in his emails to Clinton, which came from his friend Tyler Drumheller, the CIA’s former chief of European operations – although that fact was published weeks ago.

Ill informed as they may be, however, Gowdy and his colleagues are determined partisans who eagerly misused their authority to interrogate Blumenthal with hostile questions about his work with Media MattersCorrect the Record, and other groups that dared to criticize their ridiculous investigation.

The illegitimate intent of those questions was to harass Blumenthal for lawful free speech – a departure from the committee’s stated mission that might conceivably disturb the First Amendment purists at the Times. But since nobody leaked that part of the hearing to Schmidt, it went unreported there.

Everyone should hope that Gowdy and his Republican colleagues accede to the demand by their Democratic colleagues to release Blumenthal’s testimony in full — rather than continuing to leak paragraphs and paraphrases out of context to the Times and other publications. Aside from providing a needed corrective to the majority’s constant prevarications and misconduct, the transcript is sure to have entertainment value. My sources say that some of the exchanges between Blumenthal and his inquisitors are comedy gold.

There came a moment, for instance, when Rep. Mike Pompeo drew attention to an email from Blumenthal to Clinton that concluded with a joking reference to Clio.

“Who is Clio?” demanded the Kansas Republican suspiciously.

Clio is the Greek goddess of history, Mike – whose judgment upon this travesty will be your committee’s just reward someday.

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. booker25 June 18, 2015

    Benghazi committee is pure D bullsh*t from the get go.

    1. David June 27, 2015

      Yeah!!! Hillary had nothing to do with those four murdered in Benghazi. It was Bush’s fault! Anyway, what difference does it make?

      1. booker25 June 27, 2015

        What about Condi Rice and the 60 who died on her watch?

        1. David June 27, 2015

          It must have been because of a movie produced which caused a spontaneous riot!

  2. FireBaron June 18, 2015

    Well, the Benghazi committee proved once again they are not interested in any facts.

    1. S.J. Jolly June 22, 2015

      The facts if Benghazi don’t support any conspiracy theory. Which leaves a bunch of small talent politicos with a big stage, and no script.

  3. Dominick Vila June 18, 2015

    The only American owned business ventures in the Benghazi area belong to the Koch siblings.

    1. Eleanore Whitaker June 18, 2015

      And, that’s is precisely what they are covering up. That the Koch boys screwed up. It is the operative of GOP bulls to always hide their errors by refocusing the spotlight on someone else.

      1. Dominick Vila June 18, 2015

        The most benign assumption is that they didn’t expect the situation to deteriorate to the point it did. They probably expected violent demonstrations as a result of the not so accidental video released just before the 9/11 anniversary to embarrass the administration, and didn’t expect terrorists were going to take advantage of the situation to burn down the consulate and kill Americans. Then again, maybe I am being too kind…

        1. Eleanore Whitaker June 19, 2015

          I see what you mean. So basically, we are talking about instigators trying to incite others. How dangerous is that?

          When I read the book, “Safe For Democracy, the Secret Wars of the CIA,” I was shocked by how manipulative partisans can be when it suits their purpose. They will go to the enth degree to carry out their agenda.

          That is intended to scare the bejeesus out of the rest of us and instead only makes us more angry at their deceit and games.

          All of the men I have ever known in the GOP were lily livered white males with only their scheming tactics as their main claim to fame. That gets all too tiresome when they create a mess they leave for the rest of us to clean up.

          When you have men like Gowdy, Cotton, Bolton, Issa, Garrett and Hensarling all acting like McCarthy’s attack dog, Roy Cohn, you know the people of this country are not going to just knuckle down and “obey.” Cohn died of Aids and McCarthy hid his boozing; while Hoover hid his dual life as a gay man for all of his gay bashing and bluster.

        2. S.J. Jolly June 22, 2015

          Idiots made the video in question, slandering Mohammed. One so bad it went nowhere until other idiots picked it up, like a cigar butt in the gutter, re-lit it, and ran around trying to ignite things with it, with some small success. Then some Islamic zealot idiots made a big display of outrage about it. All of this the work of some great minds in high places, out to manipulate world events? I’d sooner believe it was the work of the Devil, on a week when he was falling down drunk !

  4. Joseph R. Davis June 18, 2015

    Just another episode of THE GOWDY DOODY SHOW.

  5. Eleanore Whitaker June 18, 2015

    If you think Gowdy is rude, degrading and obnoxious, take a look at Cotton and Harlingen (R-TX). These 3 make Hitler look like a piker.

    They ask questions of their “victims” and then, before they have a chance to answer, they interrupt and put their “own” spin on the answer they want to hear.

    When Harlingen tried to box Secy of the Treasury Lew into a corner on whether or not banking regulations were responsible for a “blip,” he was so nasty I wanted to smack him in his kisser.

    Rep. Maxine Waters got her turn and reminded the GOP snot nosed little punks that they need to allow the person they “interrogate” a chance to answer the questions asked by the hungry dogs of the GOP.

    Who does this BS? How does asking questions you only want YOUR answers to make them valid questions? For that matter, who the hell died and allowed these GOP punks to play tyrants?

    The worst part is when Harlingen tried to force the answers he wanted to hear from Lew and Lew refused, right away another middle aged snot nosed punk Garrett (R-NJ) piled on Lew like the SS. This is democracy? What the hell happened to the 1st Amendment?

    1. Daniel Jones June 18, 2015

      Eleanore, that’s a Tailgunner Joe special.

      It’s very clear by now that they aren’t even going after Hillary. They’re trying to kill her agenda and have been for over twenty years now.

      1. Dominick Vila June 18, 2015

        The Inquisitors are doing a lot more than kill Hillary’s agenda, they want to kill the Progressives agenda in its entirety and want to replace it with a manifesto written by the oligarchs that support their campaigns.

  6. Insinnergy June 18, 2015

    Can’t wait for the transcript. 🙂
    A leaked copy would do……


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