Rep. Devin Nunes has removed his name from consideration for an appointment to the select committee charged with investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
The California Republican was considered a frontrunner for one of six remaining GOP slots to the panel. He has spent months investigating the Benghazi attack, which claimed the life of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, both as a member of the Intelligence Committee and an informal Benghazi working group led by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.. In interviews over the past few days, Nunes had expressed interest in serving on the select committee.
But Nunes informed House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, personally on Wednesday that he was concerned that the select committee's work could bleed into next year and jeopardize his chances of becoming Intelligence Committee chairman in 2015, when the position becomes vacant. Nunes said he felt comfortable with the direction of the Benghazi panel and confident that it will perform at a high level, emphasizing that his decision was based strictly on timing.
“I think they’re going to really look at folks who have prosecutorial experience, which I think is critical — and they don’t want to politicize this at all,” Nunes told the Washington Examiner, when asked to speculate on which members he thought were likely to top Boehner’s list of potential appointees.
Said a House Republican leadership aide: “The speaker understands and appreciates Rep. Nunes' decision.”
House Republicans say Boehner is closely guarding the pool of names he plans to draw on for the appointments to the select committee, limiting direct knowledge of the candidates to himself and his senior staff.
The resolution creating the committee, which is set for a floor vote on Thursday, calls for a panel of seven Republicans, including its chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and five Democrats, if the minority party doesn't boycott. Boehner is expected to publicize the Republican appointees immediately following the House vote approving the creation of the select committee.
Those Republicans who serve on the five committees that had jointly investigated Benghazi until now were thought to have a leg up in the appointment process, given their familiarity with months and months -- and as many as 40,000 pages -- of testimony and documentation. Those committees include Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform.
However, sources now believe that Boehner plans to stack the select committee with former prosecutors, and to try and steer clear of members with politically inflammatory personalities.
If that's the case, Republicans sources say members like Rep. Susan W. Brooks could be appointed to one of the coveted select committee slots. The Indiana Republican is a former U.S. attorney appointed by President George W. Bush, known for an even-keeled temperament and professional demeanor.
Westmoreland, who said he has heard that as many as 206 House Republicans have asked to be considered for service on the select committee, speculated that Boehner would want at least some members on the Benghazi panel who have been served on the Benghazi working group he chaired, given the time it could take for unfamiliar members to get up to speed on the issue.
But Westmoreland acknowledged that Boehner might choose to go a different direction. “He may say, 'we need a whole new fresh set of eyes.'”