The White House and House Democrats are keeping at arms length a House Republican special investigative panel to continue digging into the aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, but have strongly implied that any further investigation is both redundant and motivated by politics.
Briefing reporters at the White House Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said, "We have always cooperated with legitimate oversight," but declined to say whether the White House views the latest oversight attempt as legitimate.
He did, however, note that there have been seven different investigations into the attacks that left four Americans dead on Sept. 11, 2012, as well as 13 hearings, 50 member and staff briefings and more than 25,000 pages of documents produced. Carney wouldn't speculate about how the next investigation would be dealt handled by Republicans.
But, said earlier in the briefing, "If you look at even what some Republicans said it casts doubt on the legitimacy...At some point you just have to assume that Republicans will continue this because it feeds a political objective of some sort."
He later added that the House investigation seemed to be, "dissatisfaction, I guess, over the failure to prove anything."
Earlier Monday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, formally appointed Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to serve as the chairman of the select committee, a move that had been anticipated given Gowdy's involvement with the previous investigations and background as a prosecutor.
"Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come," Boehner said in a statement. "I know he shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration. I plan to ensure he and his committee have the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts."
It's still unclear whether Gowdy will be leading a bipartisan panel or merely a group of his fellow Republicans, but Democrats seem as skeptical as the White House. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Monday that the party leadership would not vote in favor of establishing the committee because they see it as a waste of resources, but they are waiting for further details before deciding whether to appoint members if it is created.
"This has been seriously and thoroughly investigated," said Hoyer, who cited the same statistics as Carney. He said that so far there has been neither a "smoking gun" nor evidence of wrongdoing.
Hoyer also noted that Boehner had previously said a select committee was not necessary to investigate the attacks. But Republicans have said that an e-mail uncovered last week from then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes (the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes) outlining talking points for then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice show the White House tried to cover up the facts with a more favorable political narrative.
The White House said Rhodes' recommendations were not directly about Benghazi, but rather the broader atmosphere in the Muslim world.