After a one-day reprieve, the White House press corps was back on the #Benghazi case Wednesday, asking Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest to once again describe the White House's view on the legitimacy of the upcoming House Select Committee on #Benghazi. At a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Little Rock, Arkansas, Earnest repeatedly pointed to the National Republican Congressional Committee's effort to raise funds off of the investigation as one appropriate measure of that committee's legitimacy.
Earnest was first asked if the legitimacy of the committee would be called into question of Democratic demands for parity are not met. "Would that be the kind of situation that the White House would consider illegitimizes the panel and therefore would make it one that you would not cooperate with?" CNN's Jim Acosta asked.
After pointing out the "remarkable cooperation" the White House has given to other Benghazi investigations, Earnest said "I have some new statistics here: Five different congressional reports have been issues on this topic. Seven different congressional investigations have been conducted. Eight different subpoenas have been issued. Thirteen hearings have been held. Twenty-five transcribed interviews have been conducted. Fifty different briefings for staff and members; 25,000 pages of documents have been produced by the administration. There has been remarkable cooperation from the administration, with Congress, who have been looking into this."
Earnest then added that "I do think that we have some new evidence today about the way that this panel can be judged. Relatively early this morning we saw one of the Republican campaign committees issue a fundraising email encouraging their donors to contribute to the party in support of the Benghazi investigation. I think that tells you just about all you need to know when it comes to assessing the political motivations of those who are leading the effort to form this committee."
Earnest reiterated the White House's concern over substantive issues surrounding Benghazi, including "bringing to justice those who perpetrated this terrible act," and "making sure that the recommendations forwarded by the Accountability Review Board -- an impartial panel that was chaired by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen -- those recommendations are being implemented."
"And just as importantly, the President is committed to making sure that we’re doing every single thing that we can to beef up diplomatic security at U.S. facilities all across the world," Earnest continued, adding "We have not seen cooperation from Republicans in Congress on that effort. And it’s unfortunate that they seem more interested in these kinds of investigations than working with the administration to actually make sure that we’re doing all that we can to keep our diplomats safe."
Asked one more time how the White House would determine the legitimacy of the committee, Earnest hit the GOP fundraising effort again, responding "I think that the fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee is raising money off the creation of this committee is a pretty good indication of the political motivation that’s at work here."
"That said," Earnest added, "the panel has not yet been created. The members have not yet been appointed. And the investigatory tactics that they are planning to employ have not yet been disclosed. So I’m going to reserve judgment on that. But I’m reserving judgment knowing that we have already produced extensive materials to support a wide range of other investigations that have already been conducted, and noting the political motivation that seems rather obvious at this point."
"So are you saying that when a party raises money off an event, committee, policy for political purposes, it’s politically motivated?" Earnest was asked.
"Well, I think I’m saying that I’ll let you be the judge of that," Earnest replied. "And I’ll be interested to hear what you conclude."
The NRCC's decision to fundraise off of this committee is an interesting test for the mainstream media. As Earnest suggests, it will be interesting to hear how they treat this obvious smoking gun to the Republicans' true motivations.