WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a newly created U.S. House select committee tasked with investigating a 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic posts in the Libyan city of Benghazi said he would look into why there was an official presence in a city with a deadly reputation.
Representative Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, will head a panel that will investigate the attack by armed militants in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Gowdy noted that the city was known to be dangerous, adding; “We were the last flag flying in Benghazi and I would like to know why.”
Democrats say Republicans are focusing on the attacks for political reasons, especially to harm the reputation of Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi attacks.
The port city of Benghazi remains dangerous. On Thursday, gunmen shot dead the intelligence chief for eastern Libya. And a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed minibus outside a special forces camp recently, killing two people.
House Speaker John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, said he wanted the panel to probe requests for security before the attacks and what Washington told its diplomats during the assault. He also tasked it with establishing whether the White House was truthful about what happened afterward.
“I don’t want theater. I don’t want a side show,” he said on the Fox news program “Sunday Morning Futures”, adding the committee had no deadline for presenting its findings.
Democrats have not yet said if they would participate on the panel. Representative Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said the party would decline to take part if it was a “witch hunt.”
“We don’t want to see reckless and irresponsible handling of an affair that took the lives of four brave Americans,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Gowdy pledged to refrain from sending campaign fundraising letters based on his work on the committee, but accused Democrats of using tragedies like the killing of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, to win financial backing for their candidates.
“I will never and have never sent out any fundraising literature trying to raise money in the grief and the tragedy of four dead Americans,” he said on “Fox News Sunday”.
“I have asked my colleagues to follow suit but it would be helpful if our colleagues on the other side of the aisle did not have selective amnesia when it comes to what it is appropriate to raise money off of and what is not.”
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Jim Loney and Rosalind Russell