WASHINGTON – Democrats criticized the U.S. lawmaker who is likely to become leader or speaker of the House of Representatives after he suggested that the House’s Republican-led Benghazi investigation committee can take credit for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s diminished public standing.
Democrats said the comments by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a Fox News Channel interview contradict claims by the committee’s leader and other Republicans that the panel is merely seeking the truth about the deadly 2012 attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton, a former secretary of state and the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, has been dogged by questions about her use of a private email account and server for government business. The Benghazi committee played a key role in discovering the private emails.
McCarthy, No. 2 to the current speaker, John Boehner, who announced his resignation last week, told conservative television host Sean Hannity that, “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable (as a Democratic candidate for president), right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped “because she’s untrustable,” McCarthy said. “But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
A spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said McCarthy’s comments show that Republicans “were never interested in a bipartisan investigation to improve the security of Americans abroad. They’ve only been interested in pure extremist political theater.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, called it “shameful” that Republicans have “used the tragedy … for political gain.”
Republicans “have blatantly abused their authority in Congress by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton,” Cummings said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said McCarthy had “committed the classic Washington gaffe of saying something that everybody already knows is true.”
McCarthy’s comments come at a critical time for the committee as it prepares to question Clinton next month in a high-profile public hearing. The panel also is expected to interview Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, behind closed doors. Abedin, considered one of Clinton’s closest confidantes, is expected to testify Oct. 16, six days before Clinton.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, called McCarthy’s comments “a damning display of honesty” by the likely next speaker of the House.
“Kevin McCarthy just confessed that the committee set up to look into the deaths of four brave Americans at Benghazi is a taxpayer-funded sham. This confirms Americans’ worst suspicions about what goes on in Washington,” Fallon said.
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