House Democrats argued Tuesday that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is likely to waste members' time and energy answering questions that have already been answered about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead.
But their effort prompted staff on the Select Committee on Benghazi, which is chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), to argue that it's "better to ask the same question twice rather than risk it not be answered at all."
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (2nd R) (D-Ill.) speaks during a press conference by Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi September 16, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tomorrow the select committee will hold its first hearing on the implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations. Also pictured (L-R) are Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
"Since all documents responsive to congressional inquiries into the Benghazi terrorist attack have not been produced, it is fair to say that not all questions have been asked and answered," Committee communications director Jamal Ware said.
The top Democrat on the select committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), told reporters Tuesday that when Republicans announced the committee earlier this year, they said it was because there are "so many unanswered questions." But Cummings said the GOP's three biggest questions have already been answered, implying that no further work needs to be done.
"The point is that these questions have been investigated and answered," Cummings said.
One of House Speaker John Boehner's questions was why additional security wasn't provided to the consulate in Benghazi. But he said the Accountability Review Board released a scathing report that acknowledged this State Department failure.
"It concluded that inadequate security resulted from… systematic failures in leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department," Cummings said.
Another question is why there was no stronger military response the night of the attack. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said numerous reports have provided that answer.
"It's clear from the reports that have been compiled by the House Armed Services Committee, the independent Accountability Review Board, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that no F-16s or other strike aircraft could have responded in time to save lives," she said.
Democrats also said GOP questions about whether administration talking points about the attacks were altered to serve a political purpose. White House officials initially said the attack was a response to an anti-Muslim video, but eventually agreed it was a planned attack that had nothing to do with the video.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no intent to mislead on the part of White House or State Department officials.
"That report reached the same non-controversial conclusions that other committees did, that the initial talking points provided by the intelligence community were flawed because of conflicting assessments, not an intention to deceive," Schiff said.
While Democrats accused Republicans of pursuing a case that should be considered closed, Gowdy's committee warned that neither Democrats nor Republicans should pre-judge the outcome of his committee's work.
"Chairman Gowdy sincerely hopes that all sides will not prejudge the outcome of the investigation — before even the committee's first hearing, which is on a topic suggested by the Democrats — and instead allow a constructive and thorough investigatory process that produces a final report on Benghazi that is beyond any doubt," Ware said. "Chairman Gowdy is committed to a process and result worthy of the sacrifice of the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to form the committee after Judicial Watch released emails earlier this year showing that a White House communications adviser was coordinating with other White House officials to ensure that the White House message would "underscore that these protests are rooted in [an] Internet video, and not a broad failure or policy."
Another email showed that then-CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell found the first draft of talking points was "unsuitable" because it encouraged the reader to "infer incorrectly that the CIA had been warned about a specific attack on our embassy."
Boehner said those emails were the "last straw" that convinced him to form the committee.