A Hillary Clinton witch hunt? Rep. Elijah Cummings on the Benghazi hearings

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

The Fine Print 

In the select committee investigating the Benghazi attack, Rep. Elijah Cummings is leading the Democrats into what he described as a Republican “witch hunt,” which he believes is intended to tarnish the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“We had a hearing and it seemed like there was Republican talking points where everybody mentioned Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton,” the Maryland Democrat told “The Fine Print” in a recent interview. “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.”

As the leading Democrat on the special committee, Cummings said it will be his job “to defend the truth” about the 2012 attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“After eight reports, 25,000 pages of documents, millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars spent on these investigations, I think the truth has been brought out,” Cummings said. “But obviously there are those who think that that's not the case. So here we are with the select committee.”

Democrats have come to rely on Cummings’ scrappy, combative style on the House Oversight Committee during a steady stream of Republican inquiries into the Obama administration.

So, when Democrats were questioning how to best respond to the Republicans’ decision to create the special committee on Benghazi – with some arguing that they should not even participate – Cummings was the party’s answer.

He said not taking part in the panel was never a good option.

“We have to participate,” he said. “What I've seen as the ranking member of the Oversight committee is that even when we are in the room we are told about subpoenas after they've already gone out when there's supposed to be consultation … so we've seen an abuse even when we're in the room, so if we're not in the room there's nobody to counter some of these allegations that may not be true, that's a problem.”

And though Cummings is not shy to declare that he thinks Hillary Clinton will be the Democrats’ presidential pick in 2016, he maintains that his role in defending the truth in this committee is distinct from protecting Clinton, whom he said Republicans will subpoena to testify in the hearing.

“I have always taken the position that I want every witness to be treated fairly--I don't care if it's Republican or Democrat. I've laid out Republicans for jumping on their own witnesses. So, it's not a question of defense, it's about people being treated fairly.”

To hear about Cummings’ hopes to put partisan hats aside in cooperation with the committee’s leading Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy, S.C., check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC News’ John Parkinson, Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Brian Haefeli and Barry Haywood contributed to this episode.