What Can the Benghazi Committee Do to Clinton?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader, presumably bored by the so-far snoozeworthy hearing on Capitol Hill today, asks what the House select committee on Benghazi can do besides flay her publicly:

The answer: not much. You can read the House resolution authorizing the select committee here, which shows that the committee is impaneled to investigate and to issue a report. It can also subpoena witnesses. But even if they uncover clear evidence of misconduct, they don’t have the authority to punish her in any way.

Of course, the investigation can be—and most people would agree already has been—politically damaging to Clinton. (Whether that was the goal or simply a secondary effect is the subject of some debate.) In addition, Representative Mo Brooks has recommended that Clinton be impeached immediately if she is elected president, which is perhaps a politically sharp idea, but one unlikely to succeed legally.