Democrats Rip McCarthy's Benghazi-Clinton Remarks
Democrats have seized on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s comments tying Hillary Clinton’s declining poll numbers to the Benghazi investigation as evidence that the congressional panel’s examination is a veiled political attack on the Democratic candidate for president.
McCarthy, widely viewed as the frontrunner to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner when House leadership elections are held Oct. 8, said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News that Clinton was “untrustable” in a large part because of the committee’s work.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable,” McCarthy said in reference to Clinton’s role in events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack. “No one would have known any of what happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon blasted the remark as “a damning display of honesty.”
"Kevin McCarthy just confessed that the committee set up to look into the deaths of four brave Americans at Benghazi is a taxpayer-funded sham. This confirms Americans' worst suspicions about what goes on in Washington," Fallon said in a statement.
The committee was created more than a year ago to consolidate and further previous congressional investigations into the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But since the committee was formed, Democrats have continually argued that it is merely a political tool intended to harm Clinton. They piled on the criticism Wednesday in response to McCarthy’s remarks.
“This stunning concession from Rep. McCarthy reveals the truth that Republicans never dared admit in public: The core Republican goal in establishing the Benghazi Committee was always to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and never to conduct an evenhanded search for the facts,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee. “It is shameful that Republicans have used this tragedy and the deaths of our fellow Americans for political gain.”
Rep. Adam Smith, a member of the panel and also the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Cummings statement, praising McCarthy for “finally coming clean and admitting what we have all known all along: that the Benghazi Select Committee was designed and created as a political attack tool to damage a potential Democratic presidential nominee.”
Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, downplayed the comments, saying in a statement to RCP that the committee has “nothing to do with politics” and alluding to the investigations into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time leading the State Department, which was revealed as a result of the committee’s work.
“The Select Committee on Benghazi has always been focused on getting the facts about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya that led to the death of four Americans,” Sparks said. “This was the right thing to do and the Committee has worked judiciously and honestly. As a result of that work, there are now numerous investigations being conducted – including [by] the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These inquiries have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the consequences of what the former Secretary has done and her confusing, conflicting, and demonstrably false responses.”
McCarthy’s remarks, and the swift and strong Democratic response, could create problems for Republicans, however. Clinton is set to testify before the committee next month in a high-profile briefing that will likely include wide-ranging questions from Republicans about the Benghazi attacks and the private email server, along with counter-questioning from Democrats about the committee’s purpose. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the administration takes McCarthy at his word in linking the committee to Clinton’s poll numbers.
“Leader McCarthy has committed the classic Washington gaffe of saying something that everybody already knows is true,” Earnest said.
RCP White House Correspondent Alexis Simendinger contributed to this report.