Hillary Clinton shakes hands with House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy at the conclusion of Thursday's hearing as Rep. Elijah Cummings looks on.

Hillary Clinton shakes hands with House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy at the conclusion of Thursday's hearing as Rep. Elijah Cummings looks on. Evan Vucci/AP

After Last Week's Hearing, Benghazi Panel Goes Back Behind Closed Doors

Republicans say that other high-profile witnesses will be interviewed in private.

Don’t look for the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi to do busi­ness in pub­lic again any­time soon.

On the heels of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 11-hour ap­pear­ance be­fore the pan­el last week, the com­mit­tee is head­ing back be­hind closed doors for what’s likely to be the rest of the roughly two dozen in­ter­views that Re­pub­lic­ans en­vi­sion.

Closed-door, tran­scribed in­ter­views have been the GOP’s stand­ard prac­tice throughout the long-run­ning probe, which has in­cluded just four pub­lic hear­ings (and Clin­ton’s was the first since Janu­ary).

That pref­er­ence likely re­in­forced by the hear­ing with Clin­ton, which was widely viewed as a polit­ic­al win for the Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner and also fea­tured some bit­ter ex­changes between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Trey Gowdy, ap­pear­ing on Meet The Press on Sunday, said private ses­sions don’t in­clude “bick­er­ing” among mem­bers. Host Chuck Todd asked Gowdy wheth­er TV cam­er­as add to “grand­stand­ing” on both sides of the aisle.

“What do you think, Chuck? You have been fol­low­ing Con­gress for a long time. I can just tell you the private in­ter­views, there is nev­er any of what you saw Thursday,” Gowdy said. He said the next two dozen in­ter­views would be be­hind closed doors. “The private ones al­ways pro­duce bet­ter res­ults,” he said.

Gowdy said the pub­lic set­ting for Clin­ton’s ap­pear­ance was the choice of the former sec­ret­ary of State.

On Fri­day, Benghazi pan­el mem­ber Susan Brooks said Re­pub­lic­ans hope to an­nounce dates for in­ter­views with former De­fense Sec­ret­ary Le­on Pan­etta and former CIA chief Dav­id Pet­raeus “very soon.”

Speak­ing on Fox News that even­ing, Gowdy called the Clin­ton hear­ing a “food fight” as he signaled that he’s un­likely to sched­ule a pub­lic hear­ing with Pan­etta, though he did not com­pletely close the door on the idea.

“If I can do Pan­etta in pub­lic—he is a very well-re­garded guy on both sides of the aisle, I think he would be a good wit­ness, if I can do him in pub­lic and have a con­struct­ive con­ver­sa­tion, but part of what I saw yes­ter­day Greta wasn’t all that con­struct­ive, and for the Amer­ic­an people just to tune in­to a nine hour food fight, I would err on the side of a private one be­fore I would do that,” Gowdy told Fox host Greta Van Suster­en on Fri­day.

Asked if any of the re­main­ing in­ter­views will be con­duc­ted as pub­lic hear­ings, com­mit­tee GOP spokes­man Jamal Ware said Sat­urday that “The tran­scribed in­ter­view re­mains the com­mit­tee’s primary means of talk­ing to wit­nesses.”

It re­mains un­clear when, ex­actly, the probe that has been run­ning for 17 months will wrap up, al­though it’s ex­pec­ted to last un­til some time next year. Re­pub­lic­ans say they’re still await­ing more doc­u­ments from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Demo­crats had in re­cent weeks sug­ges­ted they may walk away from the com­mit­tee, that they al­lege is a par­tis­an witch hunt, after Clin­ton’s ap­pear­ance. But after a meet­ing with House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi on Fri­day in the Cap­it­ol, Demo­crats an­nounced that they would con­tin­ue par­ti­cip­at­ing for now.

The com­mit­tee is deeply di­vided, and Demo­crats say they have con­cluded that they can counter Re­pub­lic­ans more ef­fect­ively by re­main­ing on the pan­el.

“We have de­cided to stay on the com­mit­tee, be­cause some­body has to be in the room to de­fend the truth, whole truth, and noth­ing but the truth,” Eli­jah Cum­mings, the pan­el’s top Demo­crat, said Sunday on Meet The Press.

He cited Clin­ton’s ap­pear­ance as evid­ence.

“If you listened to the ques­tions that were be­ing asked by Re­pub­lic­ans and the way they tried to at­tack her, you really did need to have Demo­crats in the room to give the oth­er side of the story, not so much … to de­fend her, but to try to make sure that the com­plete pic­ture was painted,” Cum­mings said.