UPDATE: Other news organizations confirm the report below that House speaker John Boehner will announce the formation of a select committee on Benghazi, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy.
House Speaker John Boehner is “seriously considering” appointing a select committee to investigate the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, according to a senior GOP leadership aide. The move comes after the revelation of an email from a top Obama national security official, Ben Rhodes, instructing Susan Rice to focus on an anti-Muslim internet video to explain the attacks.
“The new emails this week were the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says the aide. “The Speaker was furious to learn that the admininstration withheld relevant documents from a congressional subpoena. He’s sick and tired of this evasion and obstruction from the administration, and wants a solution to finally force accountability, get to the truth, and provide justice.”
Boehner, who has paid careful attention to the Benghazi developments since the attacks, has resisted calls to appoint a select committee, preferring to allow the various committees of jurisdiction to pursue investigations of their slices of the attacks on their own. Aides say Boehner continues to believe that the work of those committees has been valuable. “The current committees investigating the attack have done good work, using their authority, including subpoena authority, to gather facts, interview hundreds of witnesses, and conduct dozens of hearings. But this week’s events demonstrate a new level of stonewalling and obfuscation by the administration that requires a new level of investigation.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee issued a subpoena for Benghazi-related documents in August of 2013, but the Rhodes email and a second set of talking points that originated with the White House were released to the public for the first time this week after Judicial Watch, a conservative research group, obtained them via a Freedom of Information Act request. For these reasons, according the aide, “the reasons for appointing a committee now are straightforward.” The aide continued: “For the first time we have clear and public evidence that the White House was more involved in misleading the American people than it had previous admitted. And, second, it’s now proven that the administration withheld relevant documents from a congressional subpoena request. While the existing investigatory committees in the House have full subpoena power, the administration has now demonstrated it is willing to flagrantly defy such subpoena requests, compelling the House to consider taking the strongest actions possible in an effort to ensure Americans have the truth about what happened.”
The details of the exact structure of the special committee are still under discussion, but a source tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Rep. Trey Gowdy, a lawmaker with a reputation for tough questioning of administration witnesses, is under consideration to chair it. Gowdy has participated in meetings of an ad hoc committee of House members from various committees of jurisdiction who have met informally to compare notes and shape strategy on the Benghazi investigations.
Separately, TWS has learned that at least two committees will begin an immediate inquiry into the odd pattern of classification that preceded the release of Benghazi documents this week. Some of the previously unclassified redacted documents released to Judicial Watch were classified by the administration in February, after the subpoena from the House Oversight Committee and the FOIA request from Judicial Watch.
Boehner has largely stayed in the background on Benghazi, but he has demonstrated a keen interested in the growing controversy behind the scenes. In private conversations with members of Congress and others, Boehner cites key dates in the long Benghazi timeline from memory. He has also shown a particular interest in the stories of US security and diplomatic personnel who were on the ground during the attacks.
A final decision on a select committee could come “very soon,” according to a Republican aide.