Gowdy to fellow Republicans not on Benghazi panel: Shut up

Updated 12:41 PM EDT, Mon October 19, 2015
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Story highlights

Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Benghazi committee, defended his panel's work

Hillary Clinton is set to testify publicly before the committee Thursday

(CNN) —  

The chairman of the House Benghazi committee is telling other Republicans to “shut up” about Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, defended the panel’s work ahead of Clinton’s politically charged appearance this week.

He said comments from top Republicans like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are wrong and that the panel isn’t interested in denting the poll numbers of Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner who is set to testify publicly on Thursday.

I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we’ve done, why we’ve done it and what new facts we have found,” Gowdy said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Instead, Gowdy said, Clinton is merely one out of 70 witnesses called so far by the committee.

“I get that she gets more attention than the other 69,” he said. “But frankly, if you ask me, the eye witnesses on the ground that night in Benghazi are more important to me as a former prosecutor than the former secretary of state.”

He said he’s more interested in the emails of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who had sought additional security help and was killed in the attacks, than the emails of Clinton.

“She’s a witness. She was the secretary of state. You have to talk to her,” Gowdy said of Clinton. “We’ve already talked to 50 people not named Clinton. We’re going to talk to another couple of dozen not named Clinton.”

His defense of the committee’s work comes as Clinton herself – seizing on McCarthy’s comment that the panel has dragged down her poll numbers – has dismissed its work as a partisan expedition intended to keep her from being elected president.

The top-ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said on “Face the Nation” that Gowdy can “try to dismiss” the comments of McCarthy and another Republican, Rep. Richard Hanna of New York, but Democrats on the panel aren’t buying it.

“We know what has been going on,” he said.

He faulted Gowdy for failing to interview the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, the joint chiefs of staff or the secretary of defense.

“I am calling on Mr. Gowdy to make sure that he releases all the transcripts of all these people that he claims that we have interviewed,” Cummings said. “Because I got to tell you, most of them were State Department people or they were Hillary Clinton’s former aides, people that worked in their campaigns, speech writers. So when he talks about these 50 witnesses, we still have been zeroed in on Hillary Clinton and there is absolutely no doubt about that and it’s very unfortunate.”

Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she doesn’t know what to expect – or that she has anything new to add – when she testifies in a public hearing Thursday.

“I think it’s pretty clear that whatever they might have thought they were doing, they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to as, they admitted, down my poll numbers,” Clinton said.