Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said Thursday that one of the final hurdles to releasing a final report from the House Select Committee on Benghazi is an ongoing negotiation with the Obama administration over how much of the report should be classified.
Gowdy participated in the Senate Republican lunch Thursday, and a senator at the lunch said Gowdy noted the issue of classification, raising the prospect that some information in the final report may not become public.
"The fact that you have to go to the White House for a lot of this indicates big-time problems," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the Washington Examiner as he left the meeting.
Gowdy, who has long disavowed any intention to target the former secretary of state for political purposes, didn't accuse the administration of trying to protect her, according to another Senate Republican.
"There's always going to be a tug-of-war between what is classified and what is not," said the second lawmaker, who discussed the private meeting on condition of anonymity. "And he simply made it clear that they were going to try to do their best to get as much information out as they possibly could, and that that was a negotiated process that they were in the middle of."
Roberts, a former Intelligence Committee chairman, compared the talks to the negotiations he went through with George W. Bush's administration when he investigated the CIA intelligence failures about then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. "We had just a terrible time with declassification and redaction," the Kansas Republican recalled.
Gowdy didn't say when he expected the declassification review to be completed, but it can be a lengthy process. The House Intelligence Committee concluded its Benghazi investigation and voted to have their report reviewed by the administration on July 31, 2014. The final report wasn't approved until nearly four months later, on November 21, 2014. But the Benghazi committee has interviewed 81 people who never previously spoke to Congress, and so their report is expected to be longer than the House report, which coud lead to a lengthier declassification process.
Roberts also offered one insight from the Benghazi investigation that he implied could trouble Clinton's campaign, which is the lack of any apparent plan to help rescue foreign affairs officials if they got in trouble. Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack in 2012.
"This gets to an issue that I thought tore at the bond that holds the military together; and that is, if you get in harm's way, we've got your back," he told the Examiner. "And apparently, there were no plans whatsoever, even going into a situation like that, to be of any assistance should anybody get in trouble. And then you have to look at the responsibility for that and I think that's pretty obvious."