The House Select Committee on Benghazi suddenly erupted into all-out partisan bickering three hours into its grilling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday.
The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), and top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) started tearing into each other right before the first break of Clinton’s testimony.
Cummings accused Gowdy of making “several inaccurate statements” while defending the committee’s work, which Cummings framed as a partisan witch hunt to bring down Clinton’s presidential campaign.
But their discussion became explosive when it turned to Sidney Blumenthal, a controversial Clinton ally and informal adviser. Blumenthal sent Clinton a number of memos about the escalating situation in Libya, which culminated in the September 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
“I don’t care if he sent it by Morse code, carrier pigeon, smoke signals. The fact that he happened to send it by email is irrelevant!” Gowdy exclaimed at one point.
“Would the gentleman yield?” Cummings interjected.
“I’d be happy to, but you need to make sure that the entire record is correct, Mr. Cummings,” Gowdy replied.
“That’s exactly what I want to do!” Cummings boomed.
Cummings called for their committee to the release the interview transcript of Blumenthal, who previously testified before the committee during a closed session in June.
“I move that put into the record the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal,” he said. “You ask for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Well, that’s what we want to have! Let the world see it!”
Clinton sat silently as the partisan back-and-forth intensified.
Their bickering continued as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), another Benghazi committee member, jumped into the fray and agreed that the Blumenthal transcript should be released. Schiff declared that Blumenthal’s testimony would vindicate him in the face of various allegations against him.
“That’s your opinion, Adam,” Gowdy shot back as they talked over one another.
“What allegations, Adam? I’ll tell you why. Because I’m not going to release one transcript of someone who knows nothing about Libya by his own admission, while people who risked their lives, you have no interest in their story getting out!” Gowdy continued.
Schiff pointed out that Gowdy had just spent a number of minutes grilling Clinton about Blumenthal, whose emails to Clinton he said Gowdy “selectively released” to the public.
“I’m going to ask the gentleman from California to please do a better job characterising,” Gowdy replied. “These are not Sidney Bumenthal’s emails. These are Secretary Clinton’s emails. And I’ll tell you what, if you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round.”
He then sent the committee into recess: “With that, we’re adjourned.”
Watch a partial video of the back-and-forth below:
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