The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Ever since House Speaker John Boehner unveiled yet another committee to investigate Benghazi – the eighth congressional panel to investigate that September 2012 tragedy, along with a State Department Accountability Review Board – suspicions have festered that its purpose was purely partisan and political.

Even Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace sounded skeptical when he interviewed the Speaker last February:

Wallace: Finally, you have set up a select committee to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there have been about a half dozen investigations; the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee basically said there was no there there — like this last year. Some people have questioned: is all of this an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?

Boehner: No, Chris, it’s — the idea here is to get the American people the facts about what happened.

But on the evening of Sept. 29, the amiably dim Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) fully vindicated those original suspicions during an interview on Fox with Sean Hannity. Attempting to defend the departing Boehner, whom he is touted to succeed as Speaker, McCarthy highlighted what he considers the outstanding achievement of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” said eager beaver McCarthy. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.” Or in plain English: We brought down Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers by dispatching a select committee to pursue her – and Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman, has done a great job! The equally dim Hannity naturally agreed.

McCarthy’s remarks begin at the 4:25 minute mark:

For the rest of us to fully understand this craven betrayal of the solemn responsibilities entrusted to congressional leadership, let’s begin with Gowdy’s own remarks on the day that his committee’s work began last January.

“I remain hopeful there are still things left in our country that can transcend politics. I remain convinced our fellow citizens deserve all of the facts of what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi and they deserve an investigative process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens…

“The people we work for yearn to see the right thing done, for the right reasons, and in the right way. They want to know that something can rise above the din of politics. They want to trust the institutions of government. So to fulfill the duties owed to those we serve and in honor of those who were killed perhaps we can be what those four brave men were: neither Republican nor Democrat. We can just be Americans in pursuit of the facts, the truth, and justice no matter where that journey takes us.”

“Above the din of politics” is an inspiring phrase, but what has ensued ever since — as anyone paying attention already knows — is nothing more than a long series of partisan leaks and other shenanigans by the Republican majority and its staff, all plainly designed to ruin Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.

There is little doubt, for instance, that Gowdy’s crew was behind the false “criminal referral” leak last summer that so badly embarrassed its enthusiastic recipients at the New York Times. The committee members spent hours (and taxpayer dollars) behind closed doors, grilling Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal not about Benghazi, a topic on which he had no personal knowledge, but about his work with Media Matters for America and American Bridge. Of approximately 550 questions posed to Blumenthal, less than two-dozen concerned the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

In fact, the pertinent questions that Boehner and Gowdy claimed to be exploring were already answered by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI, now retired). The HPSCI report concluded last November that there was no “stand-down” order, as Boehner once claimed, no intelligence failure, and no inappropriate conduct by any responsible officials before, during, or after the terrorist assault.

Sometime next year, Gowdy will have to account for the fruits of his “investigation,” which by last June had already had expended almost $4 million and will have required far longer to complete than the congressional probes of the Iran-Contra affair or the Watergate scandal. It will surely be amusing to see how he justifies this wasteful circus.

Only three weeks from now, however, he will face the formidable Clinton in a day-long open hearing. As of today, that event is framed not by her email controversy, but by the blurted confession of McCarthy – who exposed the malignant abuse of congressional authority that Gowdy has sought to conceal.

Check out our new e-book The Hunting of Hillary, which recounts the true history of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at the John Hay Initiative in Washington on September 28, 2015.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Keep reading... Show less

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}