WASHINGTON — House Democrats are leaning toward participating in a special, Republican-led select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, a senior congressional aide said Wednesday.
No final decision has been made, but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is considering filling the five Democratic spots on the panel that was established earlier this month over Democratic objections.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has named the seven Republicans who will serve on the committee, including Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the chairman.
The congressional aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations remain private and the aide was not authorized to disclose them on the record.
Democrats have been divided over whether to boycott the investigation, the eighth probe into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Some Democrats have called the new inquiry a political sham designed to energize core GOP voters for the midterm elections, embarrass the Obama administration and rough up former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Among Democratic leaders, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina reiterated his reservations on Tuesday.
Other Democrats have maintained that they must participate in the select committee to ensure they have a role in questioning witnesses.
Pelosi met with members of the House Democratic leadership Wednesday morning. Her staff and aides to Boehner are continuing to meet to discuss the parameters of the investigation.
Multiple investigations have examined the events of that night, security at the diplomatic outpost and the Obama administration’s response in the aftermath.
The Benghazi attack has become a conservative rallying cry, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about the nature of the attack and stonewalling congressional investigators.
The special investigation means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans likely to target current and former administration officials. Almost certain to be called to testify is Clinton.
The panel is authorized to work through the end of the year, past November’s midterm elections, when the GOP hopes to win control of the Senate.
In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led probes have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has yet been arrested.
DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press