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Democrats have decided they want to participate after all in a House investigation of Benghazi. In conservative circles, Benghazi is shorthand for the 2012 killing of four U.S. diplomats in Libya. Republicans have focused on that attack for years, including the role of Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time.
There have been eight investigations, and House leaders created a special committee to look again. Many Democrats wanted to boycott that committee. But their leader Nancy Pelosi says they will participate.
NPR's S.V. Date reports.
S.V. DATE, BYLINE: Lest anybody think she had changed her mind about the value of the Benghazi committee, Nancy Pelosi was clear right up front. The Republicans were obsessed with Benghazi, she said, and the committee was merely a partisan exercise. So why take part?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort?
DATE: But in the end, she said she feared that Americans would get a completely one-sided view of Benghazi, much like she says they got from one of the previous committee probes, the one run by California Republican Darrell Issa.
So to serve as the top Democrat on the new committee Pelosi chose Maryland's Elijah Cummings, the man who stood up to Issa during those earlier hearings.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I believe we need someone in that room to simply defend the truth. Defend the truth. And that is why I've agreed to serve.
DATE: Pelosi also appointed Adam Smith of Washington State, known as a sober, pro-military moderate. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. And she named Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, an Army National Guard veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq War.
Perhaps as significant was Pelosi's decision not to name Florida Democrat Alan Grayson to the panel. Grayson is known as a liberal firebrand, and some thought his presence might distract from the message Pelosi is hoping to send. That's not to say that Democrats are ready to accept the committee's legitimacy. All five of Pelosi's appointees agree the committee is a bad idea and shouldn't have been created.
REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: That's been the public narrative on the other side, so I wouldn't expect them to change. But I'm thrilled that they're participating.
DATE: That's Trey Gowdy. He's the South Carolina Republican chairing the committee. Both Gowdy and Cummings say they like and respect each other. And they did share a brief private conversation in the speaker's lobby behind the House chamber Wednesday afternoon.
When the first official meeting of the new Benghazi panel might take place, though, is still uncertain.
S.V. Date, NPR News, the Capitol.
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