In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Key Republican Suggests Benghazi Probe Could Extend Into 2016

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The South Carolina Republican, a former prosecutor, told the New York Times that the probe may be finished by the end of 2015, "assuming cooperation from agencies, witnesses and the administration."

But he told the paper that's not a given.

"I say ‘should’ because we cannot predict what witnesses will say, what documents may be produced, and whether either will lead to additional lines of appropriate inquiry," Gowdy said. "Just as I did not sign up for nor have any interest in a political investigation, likewise I have no interest in half measures, partial productions or a lack of access to witnesses with relevant information."

The timing of the investigation's completion has always been an open question, but Gowdy's remarks appear to reflect the first admission that the probe could continue into the year 2016, coinciding with the presidential campaign.

The admission is poised to fuel allegations by Democrats that the investigation was designed a partisan arrow aimed at Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions.

By initiating a special new investigation, announced in May, Republicans may have put themselves in a complicated position. If they find damning evidence against Clinton — the secretary of state during the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya that left four Americans dead — the investigation would pay dividends. But if they don't, it could be politically problematic to disband and effectively exonerate Clinton in the heat of a presidential campaign.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has also suggested the probe could continue for a while. "I wouldn't expect that you’re going to see a lot very soon," he told reporters in May, weeks after announcing the panel. "It's going to be a while before we see a whole lot."