Pushing back at critics who contend it's time to move on from Benghazi, Rep. Trey Gowdy opened Wednesday's House hearing on the 2012 terror attack with a promise of more action next year.
"I remain keenly aware that there are those on both sides of the aisle who have concluded that all questions have been answered, there is nothing left to do, no more witnesses left to talk to, no more documents to review," said Gowdy, who was chosen by Speaker John A. Boehner last spring to consolidate multiple ongoing House probes of the incident. "But I disagree. I do not think we should 'move on' until there is a complete understanding" of how security failures at U.S. facilities in the Libyan city led to the death of four Americans.
Gowdy, a former prosecutor, maintained a low profile for months, holding only one public hearing in September before Wednesday's meeting. But the South Carolina Republican outlined a more ambitious agenda for 2015.
"We are going to keep asking questions," Gowdy said. "And to that end, we will have hearings in January, in February, and March and until. This committee will be the last best hope for answering the questions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi."
Gowdy's remarks came as critics of the ongoing Benghazi investigations are citing last month's bipartisan House Intelligence Committee report that found no wrongdoing in military and intelligence officials' handling of the attacks and their aftermath.
The House Intelligence Committee is chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on Gowdy's panel, cited the report as Wednesday's hearing got underway.
"Over the course of eighteen months of exhaustive investigations — first by the independent Accountability Review Board and then by seven congressional committees — we have learned many answers to questions about what happened in Benghazi and what changes are needed to improve security at our diplomatic facilities overseas," Cummings said. "But as we have also seen, when it comes to Benghazi, too many people are unaware that questions have been answered or are unwilling to accept the answers they hear.
Gowdy agreed to meet Thursday with Cummings and Boehner to go over the committee's rules to "ensure that both Democrats and Republicans can participate equally in the Committee’s investigation — particularly with respect to interactions with potential witnesses," according to a statement issued by Cummings.
According to the statement, Gowdy has promised by the end of the year to "identify the specific questions that remain to be answered, expedite the timeline of the Committee’s work, and conserve taxpayer dollars by avoiding the unnecessary duplication of previous investigations."
In Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers heard testimony from Greg Starr, the State Department’s assistant secretary for diplomatic security, and Steve Linick, State Department inspector general.
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