The incessant Republican witch-hunt that is the House Benghazi Committee lost even more of its miniscule remaining credibility yesterday when it became clear that the committee’s former chief counsel believes that neither Hillary Clinton nor anyone else in the Obama administration did anything nefarious or even wrong during the attacks. The comments from the chief counsel, Three-star former Lt. General Dana Chipman, were included in copies of a letter sent by Democrats to committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Sunday.
In an interview for the panel with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in January, Chipman reportedly said that “nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi” to prevent the deaths of four Americans in the immediate aftermath of the terror attack on September 11, 2012. He went on to say: “I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region. And I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”
Chipman is greatly respected within the Defense Department as a thorough and non-partisan chief counsel, and Republicans have repeatedly pointed to his presence on the Benghazi Committee to counter charges that it has a partisan orientation. That even Chipman, who has tremendous expertise and has fully invested himself in the Benghazi hearings over the past 18 months, has acknowledged that the administration did all it could on that night makes it clearer than ever that continuing the hearings is nothing but a cynical farce on behalf of Republicans groping for lines of attack against the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In a further affront to the committee’s diminished veneer of respectability, the letter Democrats released on Sunday also announced for the first time that Chipman has, as of January of this year, actually left his position on the committee, a significant change that was not previously reported. After more than two years of combing over the details of the Benghazi attacks and seeing the Committee descend into political grandstanding and politicking that even the Pentagon has called out, Chipman essentially realized there was no reason for him to remain on a panel that whose questions have long since been answered and only continues to exist because Republicans don’t like the answers they found.
As Chipman said in another panel interview with former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, “From my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya.” Coming from the panel’s chief counsel, such a pronouncement really should put an end to the circus that the hearings have become, but Republicans, of course, dismissed and ignored the comments by their own top lawyer and will forge ahead as the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the seventh Republican-led investigation into the attack, passes the two year mark.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.