Trey Gowdy's Bad Benghazi Hand


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Why won't the chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee show his cards?

Every poker player has experienced this moment.

The hand is over. You show a winning hand and your opponent sits still. They grimace, while looking down at their cards hoping somehow they will change. Maybe they let out an annoyed sigh. All this whiny display accomplishes is wasting the time of every other player at the table.

The dealer is frozen, unable deliver the pot to the winner until your opponent shows his cards or folds.

As chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee, Trey Gowdy has become that poker player. Earlier this week the Democratic staff of the committee put out a press release comparing the time spent by the Gowdy committee— 10 months and 15 days— to that taken by other historic high-profile Congressional committees and commissions to complete their investigations:

  • Hurricane Katrina

Entity: Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina

Length of investigation: 5 months and 1 day (2005-2006)

  • The Bombing of Pearl Harbor

Entity: Joint Committee on Investigations of the Pearl Harbor Attack

Length of investigation: 9 months and 15 days (1945-1946)

  • The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Entity: The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (popularly known as the Warren Commission)

Length of investigation: 9 months and 27 days (1963-1964)

  • The Iran-Contra Affair

Entity: Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran

Length of investigation: 10 months and 13 days (1987)


We are nearly 11 months into Trey Gowdy’s investigation, yet no real progress has been made. Three public hearings have been held, two of them at the behest of Democrats on the committee to insure the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board Investigation, that was completed less than four months after the attack, are being implemented. Gowdy held a third hearing in January to berate Deputy Assistant Secretary for House Affairs Joel Rubin for not responding to document requests quickly enough for his taste. The committee made these requests on November 18.

After investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, and the Accountability Review Board that have all taken place since the September 11, 2012 attack, what is taking Trey Gowdy so long to reach his conclusions?

This week's news perhaps revealed the reason. The New York Times's Michael Schmidt reported on the content of Hillary Clinton’s emails handed over to the committee:

The roughly 300 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account that were turned over last month to a House committee investigating the attack showed the secretary and her aides closely monitoring the fallout from the tragedy, which threatened to damage her image and reflect poorly on the State Department.

They provided no evidence that Mrs. Clinton, as the most incendiary Republican attacks have suggested, issued a “stand down” order to halt American forces responding to the violence in Benghazi, or took part in a broad cover-up of the administration’s response, according to senior American officials.

But they did show that Mrs. Clinton’s top aides at times corresponded with her about State Department matters from their personal email accounts, raising questions about her recent assertions that she made it her practice to email aides at their government addresses so the messages would be preserved, in compliance with federal record-keeping regulations.

There you have it: an accounting of Hillary Clinton’s emails handed over to the committee, and the most shocking revelations are that she was concerned about her public profile (what politician isn’t?) and that she did sometimes email State Department staff on their personal email accounts. (Which was already widely known.)

I am a betting man. And I would place a substantial wager on the fact that there is nothing else in those Hillary emails and nothing else in any documents that will be Rosetta Stone for Republican Benghazi conspiracy theories. That’s why Hillary Clinton herself and the Democratic members of the committee have asked that the emails be released. They will be, and there will be nothing there.

How do I know this? Gowdy himself acknowledged as much to Politico, telling National Editor Michael Hirsch that he’s ‘seen no evidence’ that Clinton ordered a stand-down of security forces in Benghazi, contributing to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, or any of the other more damning things the right typically alleges.”

This follows multiple investigations finding that there was no stand-down order and no evidence of the numerous other conspiracy theories Republican members of Congress and conservatives in the media have put forward.

Trey Gowdy is left staring down at some pretty bad cards. He can’t fold and toss his cards into the muck. That would be an acknowledgment that the millions spent on the investigation have been a waste. So instead he stalls, hoping beyond hope that somehow the hand he is dealt magically changes.