Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have expanded criticism of the GOP's probe with allegations that Republicans have "completely abandoned" much of the panel's work in order to focus on attacking Hillary Clinton.
In the latest sign of deep partisan divisions on the panel, Democrats sent GOP Chairman Trey Gowdy a letter Wednesday saying that Republicans have scuttled plans to hold numerous hearings. Citing information that Gowdy provided to Democratic staff, the letter says that as of the end of December of 2014, Republicans were planning to hold 11 hearings between January and October of this year. The committee's last public hearing was in January.
"It appears that much of the Select Committee's work has been shelved while Republicans pursue every possible avenue of political attack against Secretary Clinton. These actions by the Select Committee—which lack any legitimate basis—serve only to delay its work further into the election season and subject it to increasingly widespread criticism for its highly partisan actions," states the letter from Elijah Cummings, the panel's ranking Democrat, and the four other Democratic members.
Gowdy has consistently said that the State Department's slow-moving document production has prevented him from scheduling a hearing with former Secretary Clinton and hindered the probe more broadly. The State Department has disputed Gowdy's claims that it hasn't been forthcoming in response to committee document demands.
The committee in recent months has focused heavily on Clinton's unusual use of a private email server and her messages. The panel deposed Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, who sent Clinton a suite of memos about Libyan intelligence issues in 2011 and 2012, in mid-June
But the new letter notes that some of the planned hearings that have not occurred were focused elsewhere, including a proposed April hearing with witnesses including former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, and a June hearing with former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell.
"In the past, Republicans have attempted to blame the Select Committee's glacial pace on Secretary Clinton and the State Department. But it seems difficult to understand how they could be responsible for the Select Committee abandoning every single hearing it had planned to hold since January," the letter states.
While the panel has not held many hearings, much of its work, notably witness interviews, happens behind closed doors.
Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Gowdy, cited that work as he pushed back against the Democratic criticism, stating that private interviews are "a more productive means of getting information" than public hearings.
"The Committee has scheduled and is continuing to schedule witness interviews from all departments and entities with knowledge of what happened before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi, including the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the White House itself. These interviews are dependent, in part, on outstanding requests for documents, which have not been complied with," Ware said.
This article has been updated.
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