House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, moved to create a select committee to investigate Benghazi after it became apparent that the existing inquiry wasn't getting the job done.
The successful Judicial Watch lawsuit to obtain copies of emails detailing the Obama administration's response to the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack might have tipped Boehner in favor of creating the select committee. But Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said Monday in an interview that the speaker's decision was months in the making.
Westmoreland is in a position to know.
The Intelligence Committee member -- who is chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee -- has been keenly focused on the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
With Boehner’s approval and consultation, Westmoreland assembled an informal committee of about a dozen members to review the joint committee investigation and look for ways to improve it.
Westmoreland’s ad-hoc group, drawn from the five committees involved in the Benghazi investigation, ultimately determined that complications in coordinating the efforts of multiple panels, and periodic turf wars, were hampering the Benghazi investigation. It’s a view Boehner came to share after resisting for months the creation of a select committee on the grounds that it might set back the inquiry as any new panel got up to speed.
The “structure in and of itself was just cumbersome, and I think the speaker realized that,” Westmoreland told the Washington Examiner. “I think it was frustration that finally drove him to the point to say ‘Enough’s enough.’ The committee system is what it is. People don’t like other people getting in their jurisdiction.”
Aides have described Boehner as furious that it took a lawsuit to force the Obama administration to release copies of emails that it was supposed to have provided to congressional investigators. The emails suggest that the Obama administration might have purposely tried to blame the Benghazi attack on spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video when it knew from intelligence reports that was not the case.
But Westmoreland indicated that the manner in which the information became public, and the inability of House Republicans to uncover the information through the existing investigation, simply crystallized for Boehner and others in his caucus concerns that had been building for months that the joint-committee approach wasn't working.
“I don’t think the speaker realized the stalling or lack of good information that we were getting,” Westmoreland said. “When a congressional committee gets an email that’s redacted and then Judicial Watch gets one that’s not redacted, that’s a problem. ... This working group — we brought this to [the] speaker’s attention.”
Westmoreland applauded Boehner's appointment of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to head the select committee and said he hopes to be appointed to one of the panel slots. “Trey's a sharp guy, a great prosecutor and asks good questions.”
Editor's note: Judicial Watch is representing the Washington Examiner in the newspaper's federal lawsuit seeking access to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records under FOIA.