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Rep. Jason Chaffetz not named to Benghazi committee

Published: Friday, May 9 2014 2:30 p.m. MDT

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during the Utah Republican Party nominating convention Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Sandy, Utah.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most ardent critics of the White House on Benghazi won't be on the special committee created to investigate the attack that left four Americans dead in the Libyan city two years ago.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, earlier this week said it would be an honor to serve on the panel, adding he's poured a lot of time and energy into the issue already, including two trips to Libya. But he was not among the seven Republicans that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, named to the committee Friday.

"I know I'll still get to contribute," Chaffetz said, noting his friendship with the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

The Republican-led House voted Thursday to establish the select committee, setting up a battle with Democrats who call it a political ploy to keep the controversy alive during the midterm elections. Democrats have talked about boycotting the investigation.

Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, voted against creation of the panel. Four House committees have held 15 hearings on the issue and could hold more in the future, he said.

"I do not see where a new committee, structured in an overtly partisan manner, will offer anything to this issue except for a duplicative additional layer of bureaucracy," Matheson said in a statement.

Chaffetz this week accused the White House and the State Department of hiding documents to hinder the congressional inquiry.

"Why not just show us everything, wherever it may lead. If there's nothing wrong there, show us the documents," he said. "I don't know where this is going to go. I just want the truth."

In a Thursday speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the Obama administration withholding emails on Benghazi shows a pattern of "stonewalling like we've never seen since Richard Nixon."

Hatch said people, including the families of those who died, deserve a fair and thorough investigation oft what happened.

"We have an obligation to get to the bottom of it and let the chips fall where they may. There were four deaths here," he said.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

Two former GOP presidential candidates with Utah ties also weighed in on the issue this week.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. described Benghazi as "a horrible case of miscommunication by the White House" rather than "really malicious behavior on the part of some public servants" in an interview with longtime talk show host Larry King that was posted Thursday.

King asked Huntsman whether Benghazi is "a fair issue" in a partial transcript of the PoliticKING interview for the online channel Ora.tv.

"I think it will be used whether I think it's fair or not," said Huntsman, who served as U.S. Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama after stepping down as Utah's governor in 2009.

The White House, Huntsman said, "should have come out early and spoken for it. Is it a really deep and substantive issue that really kind of points its finger at really malicious behavior on the part of some public servants? I don't think so."

Mitt Romney said he supports the House investigation.

"I think what the Republicans have every right to say, and is appropriate to say, is that if Republicans were not in the Congress, if Republicans did not have a majority in the Congress, there would not be an investigation into Benghazi," he said Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I think there are questions that have to be answered, that have not yet been answered, that the White House has apparently withheld certain information," Romney added.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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