House Democrats will participate in the special, Republican-led select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, despite serious concerns within the party that the inquiry is an election-year ploy to energize core GOP voters.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on Wednesday that she will appoint the full complement of five Democrats on the 12-member panel, tapping lawmakers who have been deeply involved in previous congressional investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died
in the attack when terrorists stormed the mission. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of misleading Americans about a terror attack weeks before the election.
“I believe we need someone in that room to simply defend the truth,” Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Cummings will serve as the ranking member on the select committee. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had selected Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a seasoned prosecutor, to be the panel’s chairman along with six other Republicans.
Democrats who also will participate are Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel; Adam Schiff of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee; Linda Sanchez, also of California, who is on Ways and Means’ oversight subcommittee, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who serves on Armed Services.
Democrats have been divided over whether to boycott the investigation, the eighth probe. Some Democrats have called the new inquiry a political sham designed to embarrass the Obama administration and rough up former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
The Benghazi attack has become a conservative rallying cry, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about the nature of the attack and stonewalling congressional investigators.
The special investigation means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans likely to target current and former administration officials. Almost certain to be called to testify is Clinton.