Rep. Gowdy To Lead New Benghazi Committee In First Public Hearing House lawmakers will give the Sept. 11 attacks in Libya two years ago a fresh look. Wednesday's hearing will be the first public one since Gowdy, R-S.C., became head of a special Benghazi committee.

Rep. Gowdy To Lead New Benghazi Committee In First Public Hearing

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill take a fresh look tomorrow at the terrorist attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya two years ago. This will be the first session of a special House committee created in May and chaired by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy. Gowdy's got a reputation as a hard charging conservative but he has promised to take the politics out of the Benghazi committee and focus solely on how those deaths could have been prevented. NPR's a Brakkton Booker has this profile.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Now that Congressman Trey Gowdy can add chairman to his title some of his Republican colleagues have some playful advice for him.

CONGRESSMAN DEVIN NUNES: So - well the first thing he needs to do is he needs to get a haircut and stay with it. That's going to be the key, he changes hairstyles so much nobody can recognize him.

BOOKER: That's Devin Nunes of California. Gowdy knows people poke fun about his ever-changing hairstyles, but he's laser-focused on his vision for the select committee on Benghazi, a panel he says, will be without bias or personal ambition.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Hair, suit, whether I shave or not has nothing to do with me. Just watch the process.

BOOKER: He already sits on the House Oversight Committee, which has had several hearings and briefings on its own on the issue. That's one reason why Congressman Nunes says this committee was tailor-made for Gowdy.

NUNES: I think he's a good choice because he's a junior member that has a solid professional background and he's been doing the work so he's very well aware of what's left to be done.

BOOKER: Gowdy had a stellar law career before coming to Congress. He was a federal prosecutor in the 1990s. He was elected three times as a state prosecutor and then, in 2010, he rode the Tea Party wave in to Congress. Gowdy returns to that prosecutor mode often. Here he is talking to reporters about what he hopes to hear from those who testify before his panel.


GOWDY: If they have knowledge about the pre, during or after, they would be on the list. I would be committing legal malpractice if I didn't talk to a witness that had knowledge.

BOOKER: Some say all of this suggests Gowdy will run the hearings more like a courtroom trial, with voters as the ultimate jury. Congressman Mick Mulvaney is a friend of Gowdy's and a fellow South Carolina Republican.

CONGRESSMAN MICK MULVANEY: I think Trey will be very fair with people, very even handed with people, until he starts to get that sense that maybe they're not telling him the whole answer. And when that happens, then yeah, I don't want to be on the other side of that conversation from him.

BOOKER: Gowdy has built a reputation on railing against the Obama administration on everything from its healthcare law to the IRS's treatment conservative groups. He was a driving force in the House Oversight Committee's vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for the botched gun walking operation known as, fast and furious in 2012.


GOWDY: Gun walking is wrong no matter what administration does it. So bring the Republicans and bring the Democrats and bring the Bull Moose Party and bring the Whigs - bring them all. But that does not mitigate this Attorney General's responsibility to comply with a subpoena from Congress.

BOOKER: All the same, many Democrats are willing to give Gowdy the benefit of the doubt, at least for now - when it comes the hearing. Gerry Connolly is a Democrat from Virginia and he says the chairman has an important choice to make.

CONGRESSMAN GERRY CONNOLLY: He can be nothing more than a demagogic attack dog for partisan purposes or he can actually elevate the conversation and try to illuminate what happened in Benghazi and how best we can try to prevent that from recurring.

BOOKER: Gowdy though says, he wants to leave the country with only one impression when his work is complete.

GOWDY: I care very much about the process. You are welcome to draw different conclusions, but I don't want there to be any ambiguity about whether or not the process was fair.

BOOKER: That process begins tomorrow as Gowdy's select committee on Benghazi holds the first of a series of hearing that is sure to stretch well into next year. Brakkton Booker, NPR News.

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