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Benghazi panel taking shape
« on: May 22, 2014, 08:29:18 PM »

 Benghazi panel taking shape
By: Lauren French
May 22, 2014 04:22 PM EDT

The House’s investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks is slowly taking shape after members on the select panel held their first formal meetings on Thursday.

Democrats and Republicans met separately to discuss the select committee’s organization. Separately, Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel’s top Democrat, huddled in the afternoon for their first official meeting as the panel’s leaders.

The timeline for the committee is still in flux as Republican leadership still needs to provide funds for the committee. Lawmakers and staffers also have a load of material to sift through from eight previous congressional investigations into the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Thursday it could be a “while” until the committee produces its findings.

“I wouldn’t expect a lot for a while here,” he said.

Funding for the committee will come from existing House funds, but it has yet to be decided exactly where the panel will pull its budget from.

The seven Republican members huddled at about 9:30 a.m. to discuss the organization of the committee, a Republican staffer said.

Gowdy has already tapped Smith-Free Group Vice Chairman Phil Kiko, a former House counsel, to be the majority staff director. It’s likely that a sizable number of the additional staffers for both Democrats and Republicans will need security clearances, meaning it could take both parties significant time to staff up.

“The closed meeting this morning with the GOP members went forward as planned inasmuch as it relates to constructing and organizing of the majority side of the committee, including personnel,” the aide said.

In their afternoon meeting, Democrats huddled with Cummings to discuss many of the unanswered questions about budget, staffing and timing for the committee, Democratic staffers said. The five Democratic members listened to Cummings detail his conversations with Gowdy and discussed the need to find staffers with appropriate legal backgrounds and security clearances, the sources said.

The Democrats also discussed their lingering concerns about subpoenas and witnesses.

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