WASHINGTON -- Politicians are notorious for pushing witnesses to say things in hearings that will reinforce a certain conclusion. Somewhat less common is the lawmaker who completely ignores the testimony he elicits.
But the creation of the new House select committee to investigate the oft-investigated Benghazi attack offers a fine example in Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).
Last week, Mica, a member of Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, held a hearing during which he questioned retired Brig. General Robert Lovell, who was running the military intelligence operation involved in monitoring the Sept. 11, 2012, assault in the Libyan city on the Mediterranean coast.
Mica noted that he and Issa had visited U.S. military facilities in Germany, Italy and Spain before the Benghazi attack, and that they had been told the military would be able to respond in just such an emergency. Mica pressed Lovell repeatedly, demanding to know whether the general thought forces could have and should have been able to reach the beleaguered outpost.
Lovell answered that they could have done so if the capabilities had been in place, and that there should have been a way for the military to respond. He emphasized that he was testifying because he wanted to make sure that in the future, such capabilities would be on hand. But he agreed adamantly with the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee, whose report concluded that the military did all it could do on that tragic night. "That's a fact," Lovell said.
But this Thursday, shortly before voting to create the new committee, Mica said exactly the opposite, casting what Lovell would have liked to have existed as if it were what was actually in place.
"We know our military had the ability to save those Americans," Mica said Thursday, in apparent contradiction of Lovell's testimony. "We know that the State Department had the ability to keep those Americans safe, and no one acted."
Watch it above.
UPDATE: 6:40 p.m. -- Mica's office has released a statement in response to this article:
From the information I have and from information from prior briefings, I believe we have at least three locations in the Mediterranean that could have respond to the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi with a rescue operation. In fact, I visited two of those locations prior to the Benghazi attacks, and in one specific briefing, I was told we had emergency launch and rescue capabilities, not only to North Africa, but even deeper into the continent. Last January after the attacks in Benghazi, Congressman Issa and I visited what was a third location in the Mediterranean where we had emergency military launch capabilities.
I firmly believe that the United States had the capability of launching a rescue mission to come to the aide of the two Navy Seals that were killed approximately eight hours after the attacks began. In fact, no one gave the order to launch that mission. Furthermore, Brigadier General Lovell provided written testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that stated, “The point is we should have tried.”
Prior to the Benghazi attack, no one assigned the necessary resources, personnel or protections to the Benghazi post which was one of the top fourteen US diplomatic facilities identified as high risk.
What was accurate in the article was that I know our military had the ability to save those Americans and that I know that the State Department had the ability to keep those Americans safe and no one acted.
While I opposed the creation of the select committee when it was disclosed, the Administration has kept key documents from the Committee and has continued to ignore requests. It was necessary to take this action to make sure those responsible are held accountable.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.