He probably didn’t expect this, but in April, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Ranking Member of the House Freedom Caucus, made his move to oust the head of the Benghazi panel, Chairman Trey Gowdy, and essentially asked Republicans to remove him in the party’s weekly meeting. And with Thursday night’s news that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., could file a complaint against Gowdy with the House Oversight Committee, it appears the Freedom Caucus is getting its wish.
Just for the record, the news that Rep. Cummings could file the complaint was first revealed by The Daily Beast’s John Avlon. Meadows — a man who often butts heads with fellow Freedom Caucus members to the point of leaving them fuming — has opted not to comment.
Still, in a statement issued to The Hill on Friday, Meadows seemed to imply that it is Cummings’ move — not any of the Freedom Caucus’ — that is turning the tide.
“It was our belief that when the committee submits its report, Rep. Cummings will take a close look at the factors involved and whether they support substantiating the individual’s claims in his letter,” he said. “It seems that every time Rep. Cummings advances his allegations, Chairman Gowdy’s ‘Fishing Expedition’ based upon media fabrications and new recycled accusations fails to meet even the most basic standards of evidence.”
Meadows is referring to a letter in which Cummings accused Gowdy of refusing to provide crucial documents that might be relevant to the hearing. In response, Gowdy’s office released a scathing response to Cummings, saying the congressman’s action to “unmask” Gowdy’s conversations as part of the “intelligence hearing” — ultimately as a punishment for his committee’s unwillingness to turn over the documents — amounted to “a clear indication that he is hiding the truth” from the committee. The document release also comes at a time when other House Republicans, including former House Speaker John Boehner, have been vocally attacking Gowdy for, according to a report in The Hill, repeatedly failing to protect several of his committee’s subpoenaed witnesses from an imminent move to indict former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her role in the Benghazi terrorist attack of 2012.
In the face of Gowdy’s pushback, Cummings’s letter appeared to signal that he plans to keep him and all his members in check. But even as Gowdy takes the majority of the blame in the committee’s response, committee Republicans still appear unconvinced.
“It is disappointing that Leader Pelosi and Chairman Cummings feel the need to further mislead the American people by carrying out a partisan witch hunt,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said in a statement. “The release of the Chairman’s letter last week serves only to prove that this recent derailment of the Benghazi Select Committee is a transparent exercise in political desperation by the Democrat leadership. At a time when our nation is in desperate need of bipartisan cooperation, these baseless attacks on Chairman Gowdy are nothing more than political grandstanding.”
There is the possibility that a growing rift between Gowdy and Republicans on the committee will give GOPers, headed by Speaker Paul Ryan, another reason to remove Gowdy as the panel’s head. Ryan has said that he can’t decide what to do until the report has been completed, which has led to speculation that the investigation will be finished this summer.
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