House Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, used to get death threats in his previous line of work. But watching his Benghazi investigation get slammed by accusations that it’s a partisan assault on Hillary Clinton is actually much worse, he says.
“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life,” Gowdy said this weekend during a lengthy interview with POLITICO. “Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically — at least it is for me.”
Gowdy faces the biggest moment of his political career when he squares off with Clinton this Thursday. But as the chairman prepares for the showdown, he’s facing increasing pressure to salvage his panel’s reputation — and perhaps his own.
Gowdy worked behind closed doors for 18 months in an effort to keep the committee’s work out of the political fray. But his strategy started unraveling after three Republicans suggested the committee was aimed at hurting Clinton in the polls. Democrats pounced, newspaper editorials called for the panel to be disbanded, and now there are calls from commentators of all stripes for Gowdy to reveal what he’s uncovered.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign and its allies have kept up the pressure with an almost daily barrage of news releases and statements slamming the panel’s work.
It’s left the usually cheerful South Carolina lawmaker sounding frustrated — and, at times, even defeated. Weary of the drumbeat of criticism, Gowdy says he’s stopped watching the news and reading the newspaper. During a Sunday morning TV appearance, Gowdy, usually quick to joke, seemed solemn as he fended off another round of accusations that the committee is a partisan exercise.
Gowdy believes the criticism has been demonstrably unfair — an attempt to “delegitimize” his panel and discredit his personal reputation ahead of Clinton’s high stakes testimony on Thursday.
“It’s not lost on me that the uptick in criticism is [happening] the two weeks before she’s coming,” he says. “I don’t think that that is a coincidence; it’s an attempt to marginalize and impugn the credibility of the panel that’s going to be asking her questions.”