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Chairman Chaffetz eyes ‘target-rich’ environment, but Benghazi isn’t one

First Published      Last Updated Nov 26 2014 07:00 am


Investigations » Utah Republican lawmaker will take over the House oversight committee in January.

Washington • When Rep. Jason Chaffetz takes over as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, he has a well-worn list — and some fresh investigations — already awaiting the spotlight.

One issue that won't be on the agenda: Benghazi.

Chaffetz, one of the Obama administration's most ardent critics over the handling of the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, says he doesn't plan any more hearings on the subject and will let a House select committee continue its probe. He expects that panel, and its chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to press harder than others have so far.



"I know Trey Gowdy and the select committee will get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Chaffetz said this week. "I think it's fair to wait and see what that committee comes up with."

The Utah Republican, who flew to Libya a month after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks to ask questions about Benghazi, says there are plenty of other issues to keep his committee busy: Secret Service missteps, IRS targeting of conservative groups and embassy security.

"It's a target-rich environment. There's plenty of waste, fraud and abuse," Chaffetz says. "There's a lot out there. ... There are investigations that have been ongoing for more than a year that you haven't even heard of."

Not that Chaffetz wants to let Benghazi go.

He says there is a litany of information that has yet to surface, even after several reports have so far exonerated the administration of any intentional wrongdoing.

The GOP-led House Intelligence Committee said Friday that after a two-year investigation it found no intelligence failure, no "stand-down" order to the military in response to the attacks and no evidence that the CIA was involved in an arms trade with Syria — all allegations that have been trumpeted in conservative circles. The latest report mirrors ones by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that also found no wrongdoing.

Chaffetz won't detail what he says those reports all missed, and he acknowledges reading only part of the most recent findings, but he doesn't believe the committee even interviewed some key people involved.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that the House Intelligence report was "full of crap."

"This report puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community," Graham said. "When the Department of Defense committees looked at it, the Department of Defense was held blameless. At the end of the day, everybody is pointing fingers at everybody else."

Chaffetz agrees: "Knowing as much as I do about Benghazi, I think Lindsey Graham is probably right. "

Chaffetz says he's spoken with Gowdy about information obtained through previous Oversight Committee hearings and probes, but will leave the rest to the select committee appointed this year by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

In the meantime, Chaffetz flew to Washington this week to start preparing for his coming chairmanship. Along with unilateral subpoena power, Chaffetz will be armed with a team of investigators and staff to pursue issues he believes need to be uncovered.

He hasn't yet slated his first hearing — he still has a couple of months to prepare — but says he won't be shy about looking into dark corners, no matter who's in the Oval Office.

"I've started investigations in the past that have led nowhere, and we have to understand that not every one of them is going to be a headline on the top of every newspaper," Chaffetz says. "But there are some things that do need to be exposed no matter who is in the White House."

tburr@sltrib.com

 

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