A top Republican on the House intelligence committee slammed his Democratic colleague Sunday for suggesting fellow Democrats boycott the newly announced committee tasked with probing the Benghazi attacks.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said doing so would be “terribly arrogant” and “wrong.”
The call for a boycott was made earlier by D-Calif., during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” He was responding to House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement Friday that the House would vote on a select committee to investigate Benghazi.
The congressman said Democrats should not give the select committee more “credibility” by joining, dismissing new evidence that Republicans have called a “smoking gun” showing the White House politicized the tragedy.
“I think it’s a colossal waste of time,” said Schiff, also a member of the intelligence panel. “I don’t think it makes sense, really, for Democrats to participate.”
King, speaking afterward with Fox News, said this would be a “mistake” for Democrats as it would show they “cannot defend the administration.”
“If Democrats boycott this committee, refuse to take part, the American people are going to conclude, and I think quite rightly, that they feel they have something to hide,” King said.
Schiff, who called the select committee a “tremendous red herring,” acknowledged he doesn’t know what Democratic leadership will decide.
Fox News was told on Friday that the panel would be bipartisan. Schiff’s comments, though, raise the prospect that his party could try to define the committee as a political vessel by sitting it out. The remarks reflect how the committee, which has not yet been formally approved, already is a political football. It would begin its investigative work in the heat of the midterm election season, poised to level damaging charges against the Obama administration at a sensitive time.
Leading Republicans were adamant that the committee is vital to get to the bottom of what happened in the days and weeks following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack which killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador.
The tipping point for those, like Boehner, who were hesitant about forming a select committee, was the release of an email that showed a White House adviser reviewing talking points for then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. The email stressed the role of protests over an anti-Islam video — which is the faulty explanation Rice went on to use to describe the Benghazi attack’s origin on Sunday news shows after the tragedy.
The White House maintains that email referenced protests elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, but Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said that claim “doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
She told “Fox News Sunday” the email shows the need for a select committee. Ayotte said there still hasn’t been a clear explanation of why Rice connected the attack to a video.
“The video story clearly came from the White House,” she said, calling it a “political explanation leading up to an election.”
“This did not fit their narrative,” Ayotte said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the document was a “messaging email” — one that Congress never would have seen if not for a court order to release it. He said the claim that a video was to blame was a “lie.”
“It wasn’t a fog of war problem they had. They created a political smokescreen,” Graham told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”