WASHINGTON -- After spending more than two years and $7 million, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released a report Tuesday that found -- like eight investigations before it -- no evidence of wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or other members of the Obama administration.
The House voted to create the committee after Republicans were frustrated that even their own GOP-led committees failed to find wrongdoing in the events surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
But the new report also fails to find evidence of wrongdoing, revealing as all previous reports did that the administration's response to the terror attacks was flawed, but not malicious or derelict.
The select committee report largely repeats the findings of other reports, with a handful of new details and a lot of fresh condemnation.
“We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm’s way. That did not happen in Benghazi," said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a committee member. "Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try.”
Pompeo's conclusion, however, runs counter to statements of his committee's top lawyer, who said during the probe that the Department of Defense did all it could.
Democrats were quick to hammer the exercise, pointing to "new" revelations that actually surfaced three years ago, such as testimony in 2013 at the House Oversight Committee that Clinton had hoped to open a permanent facility in Benghazi. The report presents that as a fresh revelation. Although the report did not highlight it, the committee's most important new information was probably the news that it revealed more than a year ago -- that Clinton used a private email server. That issue is not addressed until the end of the report.
House Majority Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) admitted last year that the email revelation was a political coup for the GOP, and it has caused trouble for Clinton on the campaign trail. It also sparked an FBI probe over her handling of classified data. The report's lack of any reference to clearly classified material on her email server, however, could be a sign that there is little chance any prosecution could stem from the unusual arrangement.
Democrats, who were excluded from drafting the GOP report, countered with the release of their own report.
Their version, less than half the length of the 800-page Republican report, also reaffirmed earlier work, repeating the conclusions that U.S. forces that were able responded courageously. At the same time, the Democrats' version says: "The State Department's security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security."
That is also old news.
Democrats have repeatedly accused the GOP of using the committee as a partisan crusade aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton in the presidential election and firing up the GOP base.
It failed to achieve that goal as well, if early comments from conservatives are any indication.
"While the report from the Select Committee on Benghazi shines some light on widespread incompetence reaching the highest levels of government, I find it incomprehensible and insulting that this Committee spent two years and $7 million in taxpayer dollars to release an 800-page report with no firm findings or conclusions," said David Bozell, who heads the group ForAmerica.
"Congressional Republicans, by lacking the courage to bring those responsible to justice, have wasted everyone's time and money, plain and simple," Bozell said. "Hillary Clinton is sure to take a victory lap today due to the fecklessness of the Majority on this committee."
Still, the select committee's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, appealed to Americans to read the report if they wanted to make up their own minds.
"I simply ask the American people to read this report for themselves, look at the evidence we have collected, and reach their own conclusions," Gowdy said. "You can read this report in less time than our fellow citizens were taking fire and fighting for their lives on the rooftops and in the streets of Benghazi.”
Gowdy insisted that some of the information really was new, including details of why Clinton wanted to open a facility in Benghazi. He also said his report reveals for the first time that the U.S. military did not mount an armed response during the attack, although other reports have mentioned the extensive internal discussion at the time to try to respond. Democrats pointed to at least one hearing in 2013 where former-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted that forces did not embark for Benghazi because they could not get there in time, although a six-man embassy security team did arrive from Tripoli, Libya.
Still, even Gowdy declined to say that the two Americans who died later in the attacks -- Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, members of that six-man team -- would have lived if the administration showed better coordination.
"I'm not going to make a reckless allegation that [they] could have been saved," Gowdy said.
Asked directly if Gowdy thought Americans who read the report should find culpability for Clinton, Gowdy declined to say so.
Clinton responded to the report while campaigning in Denver on Tuesday, saying "I think it's pretty clear it's time to move on."