WASHINGTON -- A day after releasing an 800-page report that failed to pin any fresh blame on Hillary Clinton, the House Select Committee on Benghazi was back to work Wednesday, interviewing a man who allegedly used the hashtag "#ifyouvoteforhillaryy
The report the committee released Tuesday was not necessarily the final product, as it has a working session and a vote on whether to adopt it set for July 8.
That means there is still time for the committee to get in another interview, and Wednesday it has one with an Air Force mechanic who posted material about the Benghazi, Libya, attacks on his Facebook page, arguing that planes from his base in Europe could have intervened in time.
A spokesman for the committee said in a statement that they requested that military officials make the witness available in February, but they only did so Tuesday, leading to the late interview.
“The committee will not allow the Defense Department’s needless delays to stop it from interviewing a witness it sought to speak with several months ago," said Matt Wolking, the spokesman. "The committee’s proposed report can be updated with any new testimony when it is marked up and voted on. Chairman [Trey] Gowdy intends to release this and other witness interview transcripts once the administration clears them for public release."
Besides a hashtag condemning Clinton, Democrats on the committee say the post declared jets were not scrambled to protect Benghazi because "we have a corrupt government with disregard to human life, that looks at us as tools on the physical side of their political battles."
Republicans say the hashtag never existed. Democrats say it was removed later.
In any case, the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), hammered the new interview as more evidence Republicans are trying to use the deaths of the four Americans killed in the 2012 attacks in an attempt to tarnish Clinton.
"Republicans are addicted to Benghazi and to exploiting this tragedy for political reasons," Cummings said in a statement. "If we needed any more evidence that this investigation was a partisan charade, now we have it. "
"One day after issuing their 'final' report, Republicans are requiring yet another witness to be flown to Washington so they can investigate his postings on social media," Cummings added. "Why in the world should the American taxpayers be forced to continue paying millions of dollars for Republicans to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton?"
The Department of Defense had objected to bringing in the airman, saying higher-ranking officers had already addressed anything he could talk about. The cost of the committee, which launched more than two years ago, is around $7 million.
UPDATE: June 30 -- While Republicans argued there was no hashtag #
Nevertheless, committee spokesman Wolking insisted that it was Democrats who first lied about the hashtag. That's because there seem to be at least two posts on the man's Facebook page accusing the government of wrongdoing, and the hashtag was only on one. And while the Democrats variously complained about the postings (plural) and the post (singular) in a letter objecting to calling the witness, the GOP staff decided they meant only the post that lacked the damning tag.
In a model of parsing, they said in one press release, "The relevant Facebook post did not include a hashtag, as Democrats dishonestly claimed in order to paint the [interview] request as politically-motivated."
So Democrats released a screengrab of the mechanic's words, here: