Benghazi-Gate Escalates on Eve of House Return to Washington

The Benghazi scandal has escalated on three fronts in the past 24 hours, and all three spell further problems for President Barack Obama. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the newly appointed Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, is moving to staff up the investigation. Friday he announced the appointment of a seasoned Congressional staffer and attorney, Phil Kiko, to serve as majority staff director. Kiko is a longtime aide to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who served as his chief of staff and as general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee. He also worked for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Cal.) and was deputy chief of staff to the House Science Committee. Sensenbrenner has worked closely with Democrats on legislation to curb the powers of the National Security Agency.

According to sources close to the Obama White House, there is a deep split inside the Administration over the Benghazi select committee. White House aides to Obama are pressing for the Democrats to boycott the panel altogether to make it a strictly partisan affair which can be a target of Democratic electoral attacks. However, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other Administration officials who served in Congress, according to the sources, have insisted that the panel was established through a legitimate Congressional vote and there is no Constitutional basis for a boycott.

Adding to the battle over Benghazi, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) has issued a new subpoena to Secretary of State Kerry to appear before the House Government Reform Committee on May 29 to testify on Benghazi. An earlier subpoena had called for Kerry to appear on May 21, but he was already scheduled to travel to Mexico on that date, and so the new subpoena was issued.

On the Senate side, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has written a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), demanding that the Senate also convene a select committee. The letter was signed by a total of 37 Senate Republicans. Reid has opposed a select committee, arguing that the Senate Intelligence Committee already conducted a bipartisan investigation, but Graham argued in the letter that there are new revelations, including the Ben Rhodes memo, that add to the picture and that the Senate probe was narrowly focused on several questions and did not seek a comprehensive answer to all the outstanding questions.

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