A new special House panel to investigate the 2012 tragedy at the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, now has a chairman – Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) of South Carolina. He was appointed Monday by House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio. His six years as a former federal prosecutor played a big role in the decision.
“Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come,” the speaker said in a statement Monday. “His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel.” The speaker announced the creation of the special panel last week to look further into the attack that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11 two years ago.
Representative Gowdy, who rode the conservative tea party wave into Congress in 2010, prefers to call himself “a prosecutor not a politician.” Exhibit A: He named his family’s three dogs Judge, Jury, and Bailiff. Exhibit B: As a federal prosecutor beginning in 1994 in Greenville, S.C., he worked on murder and narcotics cases. He twice won reelection to the office of county solicitor for the state’s seventh judicial circuit, where he sought the death penalty in seven cases and won them all, according to the National Journal.
Mr. Boehner, indeed, has a tough questioner in Gowdy, who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – one of the eight congressional committees that has looked into the Benghazi matter. The surfacing last week of Benghazi-related White House e-mails through a Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group Judicial Watch prompted House Republicans to create the new select committee.
One e-mail passage in particular has caught the GOP’s attention: Three days after the attack, White House foreign policy communication adviser Ben Rhodes wrote that it was important to underscore that “these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader policy failure.” Later, the administration said the references to protests were inaccurate. [Editor's note: Mr. Rhodes was identified incorrectly in the original version.]
On Monday, the No. 2 House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said that Democrats would vote against establishing the select committee and added that all the congressional hearings so far have produced “no smoking gun, no wrongdoing.” More hearings are not necessary, according to the White House press secretary, Jay Carney: “One thing this Congress is not short on is investigations into what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi.”
But Gowdy is not satisfied. In January, after the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report saying the attack was preventable, he said that he still had about 20 additional questions that hadn’t been answered. Now that the e-mails have surfaced, he has more.
When interviewed on Fox News on Friday, Gowdy said he had evidence not only that the Obama administration is hiding Benghazi information, but that “there is an intent to hide it.” He said he couldn’t disclose the evidence yet, “but I have evidence that there was a systematic, intentional decision to withhold certain documents from Congress.”
He added that the new panel is necessary to cross jurisdictional boundaries within Congress. "Our chairmen have done the best job they can do but you have a tendency to stick within your own bailiwick and we need somebody to cross the lines."
Gowdy also serves on the House Committees on Ethics, the Judiciary, and Education and the Workforce. He won a key assignment in 2013 as chairman of Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Last year, he told GreenvilleOnline.com that immigration reform should reflect “the humanity that I think defines us as a people and the respect for the rule of law that defines us as a republic.”
The congressman lives in Spartanburg, S.C., with his wife, Terri, and their two children. While he touts his prosecutorial background, you can’t separate out the political. He told the National Journal that he was inspired to excel beyond being an “extraordinarily average” student by Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign and a tour as a Senate page sponsored by then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina. In 2010, he upset six-term Rep. Bob Inglis in the GOP primary, after a campaign that attacked the incumbent as a Washington insider who had lost sight of his conservative roots.