Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Benghazi Committee Democrats: We Will Stay on Panel “For Now”

Democrats on the committee met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday.

Demo­crats aren’t walk­ing away from the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi.

In a meet­ing with House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, a seni­or Demo­crat­ic aide said, “Demo­crat­ic mem­bers of the Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi made the de­cision to re­main as par­ti­cipants of the pan­el for now.”

Demo­crats call the GOP-led probe a na­kedly polit­ic­al ex­er­cise de­signed to dam­age former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, the front-run­ner for the Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion, who spent eight hours an­swer­ing ques­tions at a mara­thon pub­lic hear­ing Thursday.

Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, the top Demo­crat on the pan­el, had said be­fore the hear­ing that his mem­bers would make a de­cision about their fu­ture on the com­mit­tee after Clin­ton’s ap­pear­ance.

But even be­fore the hear­ing, Cum­mings said that Demo­crats had reas­ons to stay in­volved. “Some­body has to de­fend the truth,” he said on Wed­nes­day. “If you are not in the room, you can’t do any­thing. So that would be a real prob­lem. So that is the di­lemma we find ourselves in.”

Cum­mings and oth­er com­mit­tee Demo­crats met be­hind closed doors with Pelosi in the Cap­it­ol on Fri­day, and af­ter­ward is­sued a state­ment again call­ing on House Speak­er John Boehner to dis­band the pan­el, which is a sym­bol­ic re­quest giv­en that Re­pub­lic­ans have made clear that they’re con­tinu­ing the probe.

“If the Speak­er re­jects our re­quest, Demo­crats will con­tin­ue to par­ti­cip­ate at this point in or­der to make sure the facts are known and the con­spir­acy the­or­ies are de­bunked,” the Demo­crats said.

Re­pub­lic­ans on the pan­el, mean­while, say they’re mov­ing in­to the next stages of the probe fol­low­ing Clin­ton’s ap­pear­ance, in­clud­ing more wit­ness in­ter­views.

Rep. Susan Brooks said Fri­day that Re­pub­lic­ans hope to an­nounce dates for in­ter­views with former De­fense Sec­ret­ary Le­on Pan­etta and former CIA chief Dav­id Pet­raeus “very soon.”

Brooks said she ex­pec­ted that those in­ter­views would be closed-door ses­sions, which has been the com­mit­tee’s prac­tice for most wit­nesses. “Those will be in clas­si­fied set­tings be­cause those are about is­sues that we can’t dis­cuss in pub­lic,” she told re­port­ers in the Cap­it­ol. But she also said it’s pos­sible that some por­tion of the Pan­etta and Pet­raeus ses­sions could be pub­lic.

Re­pub­lic­ans have not said when they will is­sue a fi­nal re­port on the probe of the Sept. 11, 2012 at­tacks in Libya that killed four Amer­ic­ans, in­clud­ing U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens.

While Demo­crats have ac­cused Re­pub­lic­ans of drag­ging the pro­cess out for polit­ic­al reas­ons, Re­pub­lic­ans say blame rests with the pace of the State De­part­ment’s doc­u­ment pro­duc­tion. Brooks said there are “many more” doc­u­ments the pan­el is still await­ing.

“We are try­ing to get that defin­it­ive, fact-based in­vest­ig­at­ive re­port fin­ished, and that will hap­pen as soon as we can pos­sibly make it hap­pen, but we have got to fin­ish the in­ter­views; we’ve got to get the doc­u­ments,” Brooks said in the Cap­it­ol.