By: Ginger Gibson
September 20, 2013 03:57 PM EST
Darrell Issa is scheduled to travel to Libya next week as part of his investigation into the attack last year on the Benghazi consulate, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.
The California Republican, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, did not invite Democratic counterparts on the trip, which has been in the works for over a week and begins on Sunday with stops in Italy and Egypt.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — the committee’s ranking member — called on Issa to postpone the trip to allow a Democrat to take part in the excursion.
“Stop your partisan efforts to deliberately exclude Democrats from this trip, and provide adequate notice to allow Democratic Members to join this delegation at a later date,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Issa sent on Friday afternoon. “Although you claim that your investigation of the Benghazi attacks is bipartisan, your efforts to secretly plan an official trip to Libya — and then deliberately exclude Democrats from joining — is part of an unfortunate pattern of partisanship that undermines the creditability of this investigation.”
Issa’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Issa has been leading the charge on the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Republicans believe that the Obama administration, led by the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, botched the immediate response to the attacks by not doing enough to save lives.
Republicans are also charging the administration with engaging in a politically-motivated cover-up on the eve of the election by insisting the attacks were prompted by an anti-Muslim video and changing talking points to not call it a terrorist attack. Democrats argue that the administration did everything possible to save the lives of those in Benghazi and that in the aftermath, they were sorting out the details and not covering up a terrorist attack for political reasons.
Issa will not visit Benghazi, according to a travel itinerary. Two others are traveling with Issa — a senior policy adviser on the Oversight Committee and a congressional liaison with the military.
The itinerary describes the purpose of the trip is to “review the current ability of the United States Government and the United States Military to track and respond to a crisis on the African continent.”
Issa is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Thursday. House members, who were originally scheduled to be in recess next week, will return to Washington late on Wednesday evening. Their recess was canceled because both chambers have yet to pass a continuing resolution that will avert a government shutdown by October 1.
During a hearing on Thursday, Issa even went so far as to invite two members with him on his next trip in response to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) questioning what was being done to secure other facilities.
“If you’re available along with Miss [Rep. Tammy] Duckworth, I would love to have you go on the next trip to the region and we can begin looking at what recommendations we could help with,” Issa said during Thursday’s hearing.
Pocan responded that he would “love” to attend the next trip.
“I appreciated Chairman Issa’s invitation yesterday to join the Committee on its next trip to the region, so we can move forward on the Benghazi inquiry in a bipartisan manner,” Pocan said after learning of the Libya trip scheduled for next week. “Apparently the trip he is taking this weekend must have slipped his mind.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the committee, blasted Issa for the trip.
“Once again, Republicans on the Committee have engaged in duplicitous partisan maneuvering that make a mockery of the Chairman’s claims that he is conducting a bipartisan investigation,” Connolly said in a statement. .”
The investigation has continued for months, with Republicans now focusing much of their attention on Clinton, who many believe could make a run for president in 2016.
While another member of the committee traveled to Libya in October, Issa hasn’t visited the war-torn nation since launching his investigation into the attacks last year.
No Democrats were contacted about being included on the trip, according to sources with knowledge how it was planned.
In an April 2011 memo, Issa wrote to members about new rules regarding travel for the committee. The memo states, “All delegations must be bipartisan. Single member travel is not permitted except in rare circumstances and at the sole discretion of the Chairman.”
It’s the second partisan trip that a member of the committee has taken. In October, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) made an unannounced trip to Libya to investigate the Benghazi incident that didn’t include Democratic members. Democrats were informed only 24 hours before that the Republican would be traveling to Libya.
Chaffetz has accused the State Department of following him around on the trip and monitoring what briefings he received, a point that has become contentious for Republicans in their investigation.
Earlier this week, Issa held a hearing into the attacks that included former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen.
Republicans sought to discredit a report issued by Pickering and Mullen in their role as co-chairs of the Accountability Review Board. The GOP members argued that the report was not broad enough and failed to lay blame at the feet of senior-level officials.