Member, Staffer Face Off on Benghazi Committee (Updated)
Updated: 3:07 p.m. | Typically, partisan squabbles regarding the Select Committee on Benghazi are waged between the chairman and ranking member, Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Democrat Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, respectively.
This round, however, the tête-à-tête is taking place between committee member Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., and Gowdy’s spokesman, Jamal Ware. Schiff, who is also the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, started things off with an op-ed to the New York Times published Friday. He slammed the committee, convened last year to investigate the Sept. 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as “aimless,” “slow-moving” and “partisan.”
“It has acted in a deeply partisan way, frequently failing to consult or even to inform Democratic members before taking action, and selectively leaking information to the press,” wrote Schiff, adding that the committee ought to be shut down.
By late Friday morning, Ware responded to Schiff’s accusations with a scathing email blast to reporters.
The subject line? “Where in the World is Mr. Schiff.”
Ware, who serves as Gowdy’s spokesman for the Benghazi Committee specifically, said Schiff “has only attended one of the more-than-45 interviews conducted to date by the Select Committee on Benghazi.”
“In fact,” Ware continued, “save for voting no to create the committee and then attending a press event on the now well-disproven Democratic talking point that all has been ‘asked and answered,’ Mr. Schiff has largely been a Member of the committee in absentia.”
Here are some of Ware’s other snipes contained in the lengthy, five-paragraph screed:
- “Perhaps the New York Times public editor can expound on why the paper chose to run an op-ed by someone who actually has no clue as to what facts have been discussed or uncovered by a committee he sits on but has failed to actually show up and participate.”
- “If Mr. Schiff truly cared about Benghazi and getting to the truth and contributing to the final, definitive accounting of what happened before, during and after the Benghazi terrorist attack … he would actually show up and help guide the direction of the investigation. He is the Ranking Member on House Intelligence as he notes, perhaps he could help shed some light for the Democrats on how to properly handle classified information and documents.”
- “Chairman Gowdy has said time-and-again, this committee is not investigating the mishandling of classified information in connection with Secretary Clinton’s personal server, it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Schiff would know that himself, if he actually showed up for committee business for a change instead of spending his time writing op-eds about things for which he was not present.”
Of course, congressional aides taking shots at members of Congress is par for the course on Capitol Hill; staffers are frequently eager to show the press they have insider insight and authority to analyze the political landscape. However, aides typically offer up those juicy quotes on condition of anonymity, since speaking ill of a lawmaker on the record tends to carry at least some risk. That’s what makes Ware’s email particularly notable.
Cummings, unsolicited, provided a written statement to CQ Roll Call Friday afternoon addressing the unusual nature of Ware’s response:
“Congressman Schiff’s op-ed in the New York Times seems to have struck a nerve with the Republican press staffer on the Benghazi Committee, who responded by posting a bizarre, highly defensive, and erratic statement overflowing with false claims. I do not know if Chairman Gowdy approved his press staffer’s statement, but it attacked Members of Congress in a direct and offensive manner that I have never seen before. If the Chairman did not approve it, he may want to consider whether this individual is the appropriate person to represent the Benghazi Committee to the press and the American people. If the Chairman did approve the statement, perhaps he should consider making those claims himself rather than allowing his press staffer to engage in activities that are not befitting the House of Representatives.”
As for Schiff, spokesman Patrick Boland hadn’t even seen Ware’s statements before they were sent to him for review by CQ Roll Call.
Asked to comment, Boland had this to say:
“The Committee Majority are attempting to distract from the fact that after representing a schedule earlier this year that would have already seen 10 public hearings, they have managed to hold precisely one — eight months ago. Unlike other Select Committee members, the fact is that Congressman Schiff participated in a professional, bipartisan investigation by the House Intelligence Committee which debunked the myths and conspiracy theories that the Majority on the Select Committee are attempting to resuscitate, and it’s apparent that the metric for success of the Benghazi Committee is the political damage done to Secretary Clinton, not the search for the truth.”
A few hours later, Boland followed up to defend his boss’s attendance and participation record in committee activities:
“In 16 months, the select committee has held only three hearings and one deposition, all of which Rep. Schiff attended, and two of the hearings were ones that Schiff proposed on the implementation of the ARB report. If the committee would like to increase the participation of members, perhaps it should have held the dozen or more hearings it promised to, but inexplicably cancelled.”
Aisha Chowdhry contributed to this report.