Jason Chaffetz’s announcement that he would not be running for re-election in 2018 was surprising. Chaffetz’s own explanation—that he wants to spend more time with his family and make some dough—may very well be all there is to it. Another possibility is that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee looked into the future, envisioned two years of running interference for President Trump, and decided that this was not going to do his career any favors. But some folks decided that Russia must be behind it because Russia, a moderately powerful state with a sputtering economy, is behind everything bad in America these days.
The first rumor was standard Russia conspiracy theory nonsense: Chaffetz was resigning because Russia had compromising information about him and was using it as blackmail! There is, of course, no reason to believe that Chaffetz, a guy from Utah, had been swept up in Russian operations. The source for this bizarre story was Louise Mensch, who has carved out a niche tweeting and writing nearly incoherent articles citing no evidence (beyond shadowy sources) of Russian interference. Mensch, a former member of the British Parliament, is either a nut or the best-sourced national security reporter in the country—there is no middle ground.
But on Thursday, Andrea Chalupa, a writer with the name of a Thomas Pynchon character, took things a step further in a viral thread that accused Jason Chaffetz of essentially orchestrating the Benghazi attacks so they could be used to discredit Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy four years later.
Citing a “credible source,” Chalupa suggests that Chaffetz and other Republicans voted to cut the budget for security in Benghazi so the consulate there would be attacked, damaging Clinton’s credibility. (For some reason, four of the tweets in the relatively short tweetstorm are about Blackwater founder/evil person Erik Prince, who was not involved in Benghazi.) Chalupa appears to be saying that Chaffetz is concerned that his treasonous act will be discovered in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, and that he is leaving to get his house in order.
This is, to put it lightly, insane. It’s never explained, for instance, why the GOP would want to do Benghazi to hurt Hillary and not Obama, who ran for re-election two months after the Benghazi attacks. How these GOP congressmen were able to anticipate Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks, which was the source of the controversy, is not explained. It’s also remarkably irresponsible, as it essentially escalates “GOP congressmen voted against budget increases that affected diplomatic security” to “GOP congressmen literally orchestrated the murder of a U.S. ambassador.” This theory is basically the inversion of the right-wing conspiracy theory of Benghazi: that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama intentionally caused the attack for... uh... yeah um... reasons.
One of the few good things to come out of Donald Trump’s presidency is that it ostensibly put the Benghazi attacks—which were incredibly tragic and the result of a lot of human error and exactly zero nefarious plots—to bed. But this is a moment in which there is an incredible appetite for explanations for why our very bad and screwed-up world is so bad and screwed-up. The problem is that nuts are filling the void, and Benghazi has now become a building block in a budding left-wing conspiracy theory complex. The liberal 13 Hours is going to be dope though.