Today, the Benghazi Committee released it’s long awaited final report. For anyone wondering “Who is Trey Gowdy?”; here it is in a nutshell.
Life and Early Career
Harold ‘Trey’ Watson Gowdy III was born on August 22nd of 1964. He grew up in Spartanburg South Carolina and still lives there to this day. Trey says that he learned the value of work early. He delivered papers as a teenager and later worked at a grocery store. He Graduated from Spartanburg high school in 1982 and then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History from Baylor University in 1986. In 1989, Trey earned his Doctorate in Law from the University of South Carolina.
Trey got his career started as a clerk in the South Carolina court of appeals and worked several other low profile jobs in his early years. His was first recognized for major achievement in 1999 when he was awarded the Chief Postal Inspector’s Award for his prosecution of Mark Jay Allen, a suspect of multiple armed robberies.
In 2000, Gowdy ran against, and defeated, incumbent candidate for 7th Circuit Solicitor Holman Gossett. Although both Gowdy and Gossett belonged to the Republican party, Gowdy was able to set himself apart with an online campaign which received considerable attention. Despite an impressive 33% violent crime decrease credited to Gosset’s “aggressive” prosecution record by a local paper, Gowdy won the position and kept it until 2010. The position of Solicitor in the South Carolina government is as a prosecutor for one of sixteen Circuit Courts. The Solicitor of the 7th Circuit represents the state in criminal cases filed in Spartanburg county and Cherokee county. During his time as Solicitor, Gowdy created a Violence Against Women Taskforce using a grant from the STOP Violence Against Women Act. As a Result, three prosecutors, a victim advocate, an investigator, and one secretary were committed to work specifically with domestic violence cases. Despite this, Gowdy was criticized for having a higher rate of domestic violence case dismissals in 2005 than in the previous four years. Gowdy responded to criticism by saying that that rate was a “meaningless barometer of success”. Gowdy was also responsible for launching a Worthless Check Program which is intended to provide restitution to victims of check fraud.
In 2010, Gowdy sought the nomination of the Republican party for the position of House Representative for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district. Before Gowdy, the seat had been held by another Republican, Bob Inglis, for three terms. However, Inglis became the recipient of a great deal of criticism from his constituents for being one of only 17 House Republicans to oppose the troop surge and for his support of efforts to combat global warming. Gowdy beat Inglis with a campaign platform centered around opposition to Democrats on issues such as the troop surge, the bailouts, and global warming. Gowdy presented himself as an outsider and promised not to be changed by Washington. In the general election, Gowdy was sure-to-win. Compared to his Democratic opponent, Paul Corden, Gowdy raised nearly forty times as much money for his campaign. Gowdy won the seat with 65% of the vote.
While serving in the 112th Congress, Gowdy sponsored legislation which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to seek assistance from the Attorney General in cases where violent crimes are being investigated. That bill, HR 2076, passed through the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and then through the Senate with unanimous approval. The bill became law in January of 2013.
Gowdy also introduced the Former Presidents Protection Act which grants secret service protection to former presidents for life and to their children until the age of 16. This bill was also well received and passed easily through both the house and senate before becoming law in January, 2013.
In addition to his introduction of legislation which was well received on both sides of the isle, Gowdy so-sponsored some Democrats’ bills, including HR6379 which was introduced by the House Representative from South Carolina’s sixth district; James Clyburn. This bill dedicated a post office to Curtis Inabinett, the first African-American mayor of Ravenel, SC and later a member of the Charleston County Council.
Towards the end of his first term, Gowdy was involved in an incident where a woman at his church was arrested for illegally carrying a firearm. The arrest came after Gowdy told police that she had threatened him with the gun. A spokesperson for Gowdy’s office denied that there was any prior relationship between the representative and the woman who threatened him.
In 2012, Representative Gowdy ran for re-election and received nearly 65% of the vote. Gowdy was not challenged as the Republican candidate but ran against two other parties in the general election; the Democratic Party and the Green Party. In the course of his campaign, Gowdy was able to raise much more money than his campaign spent, creating a ‘war chest’ fund which strengthened his incumbent position. The greatest contributions to Gowdy’s campaign came from health professionals, the insurance industry, and the entertainment industry.
To this day, Gowdy continues to serve as Representative for South Carolina’s 4th district. In addition to his duties as a congressman, Gowdy sits on the Ethics Committee, the Committee on the Judiciary, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and a Select Committee on Benghazi.
On the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th World Trade Center attack, an armed group attacked the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi, Libya. Four americans were killed, including one ambassador. The following morning, Secretary of State Clinton made a statement offering consolation to the families of victims, condemning the attack and promising to bring those responsible to justice. In order to determine what went wrong in Benghazi, Secretary Clinton established an Accountability Review Board consisting of four members appointed by the Secretary and one member from the intelligence community appointed by the Director of National Intelligence. This Board reviewed the events of September 11th and 12th and made twenty nine recommendations for policy improvement. All of the recommendations were accepted and Secretary Clinton ordered that they be implemented.
The Republican reaction was criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to security in Libya. Fox News was quick to suggest that the administration should have seen this threat coming and had ignored pleas from “our people in Libya”.Clinton’s response after the fact was regarded as ‘too little too late’.
By 2014, the issue had received enough attention for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to propose a special committee be formed to investigate all policy decisions which may have prompted the attacks or impeded the United States’ ability to respond effectively as well as other relevant information. The proposal was rejected by nearly all Democratic House Representatives but the Republicans were able to pass it anyways. To chair the special committee committee, Boehner appointed Trey Gowdy, stating “This is a big job, but Representative Gowdy has the confidence of this conference, and I know his professionalism and grit will earn him the respect of the American people.”
On September 11th, just a few months after being appointed to the special committee, Gowdy made the following statement about his intention and the purpose of the committee;
“Today we honor the memories and lives of those we lost in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We also honor the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods. It is for them that we must establish all of the facts of what happened in Benghazi, beyond any reasonable doubt. And it is for the American people, and those who serve our nation overseas—to restore their faith and confidence—that the Committee will establish the facts in a fair and impartial manner.”
A week after this declaration, Gowdy and his committee held their first hearing. The hearing began with an opening statement from Gowdy and then a series of questions from the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings. Cummings’ first line of inquiry concerned the status of implementing the policy changes recommended by the ARB Report. The first witness, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr, confirmed that the number of security personnel in Benghazi had been increased, new training was implemented, and twenty two of the recommended changes had already been fully implemented while the remaining seven were under way.
One might think that the testimony heard in the Benghazi committee’s first session would be enough to show that the State Department had responded effectively and was taking measures to correct deficiencies. In fact, this is the position that was taken generally by Democrats and was parroted by at least one left wing propaganda outlet. However, in a letter to the ranking member, Gowdy expressed his intention to continue on with the investigation and asked for Cummings to continue cooperating in a bipartisan effort to uncover the truth, whatever that may be. Gowdy reminded Cummings that their select committee had already been granted authority to subpoena witnesses and pointed out that no objections from the minority would un-do that. However, in the spirit of cooperation, Gowdy promised to give Cummings and the other members of the committee ample opportunity to contest subpoenas before they were made public.
To this date, the investigation by Gowdy’s committee continues, making it the longest congressional investigation in history. It also continues to receive criticism from Democrats. As recently as April 5th of this year, Minority Leader Harry Reid declared on the floor of the senate that Gowdy’s committee is a “partisan committee masquerading as an independent body.” Democrats have complained that the committee has intentionally fueled controversy with its subpoena of Hillary Clinton and attempted to embarrass her before the next presidential election.
Gowdy and the Tea Party
As Americans become more impatient with their political system, many who see no hope in either of the major parties have taken to identifying as members of the Tea Party, in reference to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. In 2004, a website was launched to give a face to the organization and lists the fifteen non-negotiable beliefs of the movement which include the right to gun ownership, the illegality of un-approved immigrants, and the importance of balancing the federal budget. Some politicians have explicitly associated themselves with the movement but, despite being popular among Tea Party members, Gowdy has never declared any involvement in the movement and continues to identify as a Republican.
Gowdy vs Justice Department
Gowdy, along with several of his house colleagues, has been critical of the Department of Justice’s ‘Smart on Crime’ initiative. That’s because, in an effort to reduce sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, the Attorney General’s office issued a memo instructing prosecutors not to charge suspects with possession of an amount of an illegal substance which would require a mandatory minimum sentence unless the suspects are violent or part a criminal organization. According to Representative Gowdy, if the Department of Justice wanted to avoid jailing non-violent criminals, it should exercise prosecutorial discretion and simply not prosecute drug cases. However, by choosing to prosecute and not applying the law as defined in mandatory minimum legislation, the DOJ undermines congressional authority.
Seemingly in response to the DOJ’s behavior, Representative Gowdy introduced the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014. If this legislation had passed, it would have empowered either chamber of congress to initiate a civil case against the executive in the event that the executive issued orders which conflicted with the constitutional requirement that it executes the law. Unfortunately, after being passed through the House of Representatives, Gowdy’s bill died in the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary.
Gowdy’s Position on the 2016 Election
In December of 2015, Gowdy officially endorsed Marco Rubio for President. Gowdy said that he could trust Rubio with the presidency because he has been consistent and kept his campaign promises. Gowdy also praised Rubio’s fiscal conservative tendencies, citing the occasion when he received an old campaign tie, worth less that the paper it was wrapped in, as a christmas gift from the Senator.
GOP front runner Donald Trump has responded to Gowdy’s position with a predictable volley of insults. Trump accused Gowdy of mismanaging the Benghazi investigation, calling it a “total not-good”.
The end of the Road
After serving four terms in the house of representatives and having earned the respect of many on the right, Gowdy has decided not to seek re-election. After his current term ends, Gowdy plans to return to his family and to his beautiful home state of South Carolina.