White House Blocks Benghazi Questions for Obama in Clash With Congress
The House Select Committee submitted a list of questions for President Barack Obama to answer, as part of the Committee’s inquiry into the 2012 attack in Benghazi that resulted the deaths of four Americans, Politico reported. The investigation is coming to a close after more than two years.
In a letter to Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy delivered on Saturday, counsel to the President Neil Eggleston said he advised Obama not to answer the questions, and expressed concern over the effect it would have on separation of powers if Obama did comply. “If the president were to answer your questions, his response would suggest that Congress has the unilateral power to demand answers from the president about his official acts,” Eggleston wrote.
Committee spokesman Jamal Ware had strong words for the administration in response to the letter. He said:
It’s no surprise President Obama would rather take questions from Derek Jeter than answer questions for the American people about the Benghazi terrorist attacks, which followed what he himself has called his worst mistake — failing to plan for what happened after the State Department pushed U.S. intervention in Libya.
Gowdy first discussed sending written questions to the President in 2014. He again brought it up with Eggleston in January of this year. Eggleston sent a letter on May 11 with information regarding when Obama was first briefed on the Benghazi attack, and saying that after the briefing, Obama “immediately ordered the military to deploy all available assets.” That letter also denied that Obama rescinded the order or that there was any order from the White House or National Security Council to delay their response. Eggleston said in the letter:
Any claim that the president was not fully engaged and informed the night of the attacks and any doubt about his direction that any and all action be taken to assist our people under attack are unfounded and belied by the facts.
Gowdy sent more questions on June 7, regarding whether Obama ever covertly authorized giving weapons to Libyan rebels, if he viewed the security footage of the attack, when he learned who the terrorists were, and whether anyone from the White House or Department of Defense contacted Terry Jones or YouTube about an anti-Muslim video. The administration had at one point claimed that the attack was in response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video created by Jones.
Instead of answers to the questions, Gowdy got Eggleston’s latest letter in response. In addition to saying that Obama will not answer the questions, Eggleston challenged the Committee’s intentions. “Your decision to send this letter raises serious questions about the legitimacy of your purported investigatory interests,” Eggleston said. He stated that the Committee knew that Eggleston would advise Obama not to answer the questions, so they shouldn’t have asked them at all.
Eggleston also claimed that some of the questions from Gowdy’s June 7 letter had already been answered. A Committee spokesperson told Politico that the questions were not repeats, and that not all of the information that Eggleston turned over in May fully answered the questions they had first asked.