Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi pointed to an unlikely source Friday to defend Rep. Trey Gowdy from Democratic claims that the chairman had for the first time admitted the military could not have intervened in the Sept. 2012 terror attack.
Citing a post from Media Matters for America, a Hillary Clinton-linked political group founded by Clinton loyalist David Brock, panel Republicans said Gowdy has long held that while certain military witnesses said they received a "stand-down" order the night of the attack, others said they did not.
"Gowdy Didn't Specify Whether Witnesses Said That Military Or Local Security Personnel Claim They Were Told To 'Stand Down,'" the January Media Matters post said.
Benghazi Democrats circulated part of a quote Tuesday from Gowdy, who said during an appearance on Fox News that armed forces could not have reached the U.S. diplomatic compound in time to spare the four Americans that died there in the 2012 raid.
"Whether or not they could have gotten there in time, I don't think there is any issue with respect to that — they couldn't," Gowdy had said during the interview.
Democrats on the committee highlighted the quote as further evidence for their argument that continuing the two-year investigation is fruitless given the lack of new information it has uncovered.
In recent weeks, the minority has ramped up attacks on Republican lawmakers' dealings with the Pentagon, making the case that because the military has thus far provided no information that alters the basic understanding of circumstances surrounding Benghazi, the Defense Department should not be pushed into handing over more documents and witnesses.
But in citing Media Matters Friday and, earlier this week, publishing the entirety of Gowdy's controversial Fox News quote, committee Republicans pushed back on the suggestion that the chairman had ever publicly drawn conclusions about the military's role in the Benghazi attack.
For example, immediately after Gowdy stated armed forces could not have reached the compound in time to save the four victims, he noted that "the next question is, why could [they] not? Why were [they] not positioned to do it?"
Committee Republicans said Wednesday that the Department of Defense's long lags in responding to requests for records and witness interviews had contributed to more than 10,000 cumulative days of delay since the probe began, stalling the investigation months past its projected conclusion in December 2015.
Although the select committee was formed in spring 2014 due to the discovery of an email that suggested the Obama administration had, contrary to its previous claims, knowingly obscured the cause of the Benghazi attack, more recent controversy has focused on the question of whether military assets could have prevented some of the bloodshed.
An email made public in December resurrected speculation that armed forces were prepared to travel to Benghazi in the early hours of the attack before someone in the administration ordered them to stay put, a claim that is not supported by the body of available evidence.
However, the email described military forces that were "spinning" and awaiting approval in preparation to head for Benghazi — forces that ultimately did not deploy to Libya that night.
Democrats have repeatedly pushed back on the majority's attempts to question lower-level members of the military that would have knowledge of the chain of events surrounding Benghazi, arguing all such questions have been "asked and answered."