Politics & Government

Gowdy says Congress hearings an ‘unmitigated failure,’ including his Clinton panel

Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy is not a fan of splashy, big-name congressional hearings — including, in hindsight, his own.

The former S.C. congressman labeled his Benghazi panel’s questioning of Hillary Clinton an “unmitigated failure” Monday on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” where Gowdy is a contributor.

Gowdy said he was unimpressed with last week’s high-profile testimony by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to a U.S. House panel.

“What we learned this past week is how utterly useless public congressional hearings are,” the Spartanburg Republican said, adding there is a better way for congressional investigators to get useful information than the public circus of an open hearing.

“I think two closed-door sessions this past week on the Senate and House side with the intelligence committees were very helpful,” Gowdy said. “That is why they’re bringing Cohen back.”

In closed hearings — held when questions asked by the panel deal with sensitive or classified information — members have more time to ask questions and draw out constructive answers, Gowdy said.

“What serious finder of fact can you name that identifies information in five-minute increments and does it on television and flips from one side to the other?” Gowdy asked the Fox News hosts. “Grand jury doesn’t do it. Your local sheriff doesn’t do it. The United States attorney doesn’t do it.”

Host Steve Doocy thought of a counter-example. “You tried to do it in the past,” Doocy said.

A former prosecutor, Gowdy as a congressman chaired a lengthy House investigation into the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate building in Benghazi, Libya. In October 2015, the panel held an 11-hour public grilling of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, then a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

But Gowdy apparently has a low opinion of how that hearing worked out.

“I was an utter, unmitigated failure,” Gowdy said. “Which is why in the one investigation I ran, we interviewed 103 people. One hundred and two of them were done behind closed doors. Only one was done publicly, and that didn’t go very well.”

The Benghazi panel spent an estimated $7.8 million in its two and a half year investigation.

Gowdy, who reportedly hated his time in Congress, declined to run for re-election in 2018 after eight years representing South Carolina’s Upstate 4th District. He’s since joined Columbia’s Nelson Mullins law firm while appearing on Fox News as a side job.

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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