WASHINGTON -- When Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) named Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to head the new Benghazi select committee created by the House this week, he said he was charging the former federal prosecutor with conducting a fair, thorough and nonpartisan investigation. Gowdy is well respected by many of his fellow members, Boehner said.
But just last month Gowdy offered a revealing opinion on the importance of calling expert witnesses -- one that suggests the fair-and-nonpartisan language may be all for show.
In that case, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee were objecting to a vote to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress and pushing to bring in legal experts who they hoped would explain why no court has ever upheld a congressional contempt vote against someone who pleaded the Fifth. The Democrats wanted other committee members -- especially those who were not lawyers -- to hear the specific reasons why many legal experts do not believe Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment right when she said she had done nothing wrong and then refused to testify further.
Gowdy, however, dismissed the idea of hearing from experts as a sham and a waste of time.
"Some of my colleagues on the other side, they say we need another hearing where we can bring in experts," Gowdy said. "Let me take out all of the drama. We would pick three that said she waived, and they would pick one that said she didn't. I hate to do a spoiler, but that's the way that hearing would go."
Nevertheless, Boehner insisted that Gowdy is the man for the Benghazi job.
"He has my complete confidence," the speaker said.
Some Democrats are advocating for a boycott of the committee, noting they will be outnumbered seven to five on the panel and will not have the power to subpoena their own witnesses.
Boehner pledged that the committee will be fair.
"This doesn't need to be, shouldn't be and will not be a partisan process," he said. "We will not take any shortcuts to the truth, accountability or justice. And we will not allow any sideshows that distract us from those goals."
And it will be Gowdy who decides which witnesses don't fit on the main stage.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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