WASHINGTON — House Democrats stand deeply divided over whether to participate in a Republican-led investigation of the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, with party leader Nancy Pelosi calling the newest probe a "political stunt."
Some Democrats on Friday characterized the investigation as a political spectacle and insisted that the party avoid appointing members who would give it legitimacy. Others feared that if they avoid it, they won't have the chance to counter GOP claims and defend potential witnesses.
"We must have standards," Pelosi told reporters at a news conference.
She said negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were continuing.
Democratic leaders huddled with the rank and file Friday morning to map out a strategy as Boehner moved full-speed ahead on what will be the eighth investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, assault that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Boehner, who has tapped Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to head the panel, appointed the six other Republicans on Friday. They are Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Pelosi said Democrats have heard from the families of two men killed in the attack who said "don't take us down this path again."
After the morning meeting, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., indicated a boycott is still possible.
"We don't want a kangaroo court," he said. "We think that this whole Benghazi hearing is a waste of taxpayer dollars, but if at the very least they're going to establish a fair process then we could participate, but if it's going to be a kangaroo court, we can't."
But Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a veteran of congressional investigations, argued strongly in favor of Democratic participation.
"I think the Democrats ought to be there every day, recording why it's a sham," he said.
Republicans, who insist the Obama administration hasn't come clean on what happened, voted Thursday to create the special committee.