We’re only about halfway through Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, but I think this is the moment where, looking back, we'll see the worm really turned. The backdrop to the exchange, about four hours into the proceedings, is a discursive line of questioning from chairman Trey Gowdy about Clinton’s relationship with her friend and Democratic operative Sidney Blumenthal, and the information he frequently passed along to her when she was secretary of state. Republicans have intoned darkly about this relationship and played up, in deceptive fashion, Blumenthal’s influence over Clinton’s policy in Libya—despite the fact that he has no Libya expertise, and has apparently never been there. Republicans even deposed him for several hours earlier this year. But here’s the catch: while they continue to make an issue of Blumenthal's relationship with Hillary Clinton, and their email correspondence, they’ve refused to release the transcript of that deposition, where he had a full opportunity to contextualize everything.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings called Gowdy out on this inconsistency and asked for an immediate vote on whether or not to release the full transcript. Gowdy refused. In the process he lost control of the proceedings. But that’s not so interesting in and of itself. What makes the moment iconic is that it crystalizes exactly how contrived and frankly farcical the whole charade of an investigation really is. Why is a Benghazi panel so taken up with a person who had nothing to do with Benghazi and knows nothing about Libya? If Blumenthal's role here is important, why not release the transcript of his full deposition? At one point Gowdy claimed Blumenthal's emails are relevant because former Libya ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attack, had to read and vet them—as if to say, “Well, Chris Stevens read these emails, and just look what happened to him!” It doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. And I assume Republicans know it.