Congress

Louisiana lawmaker stirs rumors of S.C. Rep. Gowdy’s retirement

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., talks with the news media before walking to a hearing room to hear testimony from Jake Sullivan, former Hillary Clinton aide during her tenure as Secretary of State, before a House panel on the Benghazi investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., talks with the news media before walking to a hearing room to hear testimony from Jake Sullivan, former Hillary Clinton aide during her tenure as Secretary of State, before a House panel on the Benghazi investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) AP

In a bizarre series of events, a Louisiana congressman announced the retirement of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., on television Wednesday, only to apologize hours later and say he was wrong.

“I’ve apologized to Trey privately for having misspoken on his future plans, but wanted to make this apology public,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said in an emailed statement. “After speaking with him, I do believe that he will be running for re-election.”

Fleming made the surprise announcement on C-SPAN earlier in the day that “Trey wants to go back to South Carolina and God bless him for that.”

Asked in the interview whether Gowdy had told him and others that he was leaving Washington, Fleming confirmed Gowdy had.

“At the end of his term, yes,” Fleming said. “He plans to go back home, and he wants to finish his work on the Benghazi special committee. But he loves South Carolina and he loves his family, and he wants to go back and spend the rest of his life there.”

Sometimes the rumor mill can really get out of hand.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said he was sitting next to Gowdy as Fleming made the announcement on C-SPAN. Mulvaney said he turned to Gowdy and Gowdy told him it wasn’t true.

“Sometimes the rumor mill can really get out of hand. Trey Gowdy is NOT retiring from Congress. I have said before and I will say again: he would never leave in the middle of the Benghazi investigation,” Mulvaney subsequently posted on his Facebook page. “He is here, at the very least, until it is finished. I can say this on fairly good authority, because I was just sitting with Trey 10 minutes ago and spoke with him about this.”

Gowdy, for his part, won’t say whether he’s running for re-election in 2016.

“Mr. Gowdy has not made any announcement on 2016,” said his spokeswoman, Amanda Duvall.

Fleming’s explanation for his premature announcement of Gowdy’s retirement is that he had “misinterpreted a statement” that was made by Gowdy.

“I know Trey intends to fulfill his work on the (Benghazi) Select Committee, which may extend beyond this Congress.” Fleming said.

The odd developments come as Gowdy has been in the spotlight this week following the news that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is stepping down. That will open up leadership positions and Gowdy, 48, has been pegged as a rising Republican star almost since the day he arrived in Congress in 2011.

Conservatives want Gowdy to run for the job of House majority leader. But Gowdy says he won’t run, and is focused on investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Bipartisan probes of the attacks, where four Americans were killed, have found no evidence of wrongdoing, but conservatives were determined to launch another investigation, and Gowdy was picked as chairman.

David Lightman of the Washington Bureau and Bristow Marchant of the Rock Hill Herald contributed.

Sean Cockerham: 202-383-6016, @seancockerham

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