Benghazzzz: House GOP Says Goodbye To Its Never-Ending Clinton Investigations

TPM Illustration/ Getty Images

The last GOP-led House Oversight hearing of President Trump’s first term will be, fittingly, focused on the Clintons.

As their time in the majority comes to an end, and their parting shot at the Clintons is a subcommittee hearing on the Clinton charity, some House Republicans are frustrated that they haven’t been able to capture their great white whale before they hand over the gavel — and subpoena power — to the Democrats.

“The problem is not the investigation, the problem is we have done nothing with what we have found out,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who once brought an intricate flowchart to a hearing pulling together numerous theories about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, told TPM.

The congressional GOP obsession with investigating the Clintons dates back to Bill Clinton’s administration, and was revived around 2013, once President Obama won his second term and his secretary of state emerged as his likely heir apparent for the 2016 election.

The notorious Benghazi investigation crossed multiple committees and spawned its own select committee, which lasted 28 months and cost taxpayers nearly $8 million. That in turn led to the Clinton email server probe — which in fairness, also sparked an FBI investigation — that continues to animate Republicans to this day.  Just last week, the House Judiciary Committee hauled former FBI Director James Comey into a private interview where he was grilled, yet again, on his decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.

Along the way, there have been also numerous accusations about the Clinton Foundation, which Republicans — egged on by the Steve Bannon-commissioned book “Clinton Cash”— have claimed was a “pay to play” operation. Tangential is the hysteria about “Uranium One,” a complex set of allegations surrounding Russia links to a nuclear power deal when Clinton was secretary of state. Those claims were first lobbed in 2015 and revived in 2017, as outgoing House Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) was coming under fire for his handling of that committee’s Russian election meddling probe.

Once Republicans gained full control of the government in 2017, they’ve had to find somewhere other than the Obama administration to point the finger at for their lack of progress. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a rising star among President Trump’s most devout allies in the House, said Tuesday that “low energy leadership” stopped House Republicans from gaining traction on their investigations in recent years.

“They really presented a number of headwinds, not only to my efforts and Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows’ efforts, but notably to Devin Nunes’ efforts,” he told TPM this week.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will be ranking member of the Oversight Committee next year, echoed Gaetz’s dissatisfaction with the traction House Republicans have gotten, and suggested that the Trump administration’s Justice Department may share some of the blame.

“I think we should have pushed harder. I am not pleased with the response we’ve gotten from the Justice Department, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort from Mr. Gaetz, Mr. Meadows and our core group,” Gaetz told TPM.

Their last hurrah will be Thursday’s Government Operations subcommittee hearing, titled “Oversight of Nonprofit Organizations: A Case Study on the Clinton Foundation.” Among the witnesses is Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, a staple of anti-Clinton proceedings.

The hearing will likely be re-airing of allegations that the Justice Department is not following up on claims of impropriety by the charity, making the House GOP’s closing act a combination of the two primary fascinations of GOP congressional oversight in the Trump era: the Clintons and an alleged Democratic Deep State at the Justice Department. It’s also the death rattle of a years-long quest to nail Hillary Clinton, the right’s longtime bogey-woman.

Not testifying, however, is Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber, who was tapped by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions — under pressure to appoint a second special counsel — to look into the House GOP’s Clinton-related claims and related allegations against the FBI. Subcommittee Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), in announcing the plans for the Clinton Foundation hearing, had said he intended to bring Huber in front of the committee.

On Wednesday, Meadows told TPM the hearing was aimed at getting a sense of the status of Huber’s efforts, and distanced it from Uranium One and other Clinton allegations. Jordan compared the absence of Huber to Republicans’ failure in bringing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in for questioning, who faces separate allegations based on how he handled the DOJ Russia probe and comments he privately made about President Trump.

Meadows, Gaetz and Jordan make up a new class, of sorts, of anti-Clinton agitators. The lawmakers who led some of the original investigations into the Clintons were more circumspect about what they were and weren’t able to accomplish.

“[Then-House Speaker] John Boehner creating the Benghazi Committee actually created six months of no activity,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chaired the Oversight Committee from 2011 to 2015 and is retiring this year. Issa also criticized his successor, ex-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), for his tenure as Oversight chair.

“There hasn’t be nearly enough oversight over these last two years of Donald Trump,” Issa said. “And that’s to the detriment of everybody”

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