May 12th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
5 years ago

Republicans walk fine line when targeting Clinton in Benghazi probe

(CNN) – Republicans continued to put Hillary Clinton at the center of their inquest into last September's attack in Benghazi, claiming Sunday the former secretary of state wasn't assigned enough blame in an independent probe of the incident.

But in singling out the top Democratic presidential prospect for 2016, Republicans find themselves balancing their quest for answers with charges of being overly aggressive in a bid for political gain.

Speaking Sunday, the Republican lawmaker leading the charge in Congress to investigate the Benghazi attack said his goal was not to tarnish Clinton's presidential chances.

"Hillary Clinton's not a target. President Obama is not a target. The target is how did we fail three different ways," Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

His remarks came after week of renewed interest in the Benghazi saga, and fresh charges of politicization from Democrats. On Wednesday, Issa's oversight panel heard an account of the Benghazi siege from a former top diplomat in Libya, who described a harrowing night that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to the country.

The hearing, which lasted five hours, drew loud protests from the White House and Congressional Democrats, who accused Republicans of rehashing a case that has already been investigated by an independent review board.

Witnesses in Wednesday's hearing, including the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Gregory Hicks, questioned the legitimacy of that board's report on the Benghazi attack, suggesting it did not include accounts from key witnesses to the assault who were on the ground as it happened.

On Sunday, critics also questioned why Clinton herself wasn't assigned more blame in the report.

"Obviously she was the decision maker at the State Department," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said on CBS "Face the Nation," adding she was "surprised" Clinton wasn't probed further.

The co-chair of the review board, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, defended his work on CNN's "State of the Union," arguing his panel was charged specifically with investigating security decisions, which he said were not made at Clinton's level.

"She has already made clear the buck stopped with her," former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said. "But we were interested in where the decisions were made. And she did not make the security decisions."

Pickering's report, released late last year, found "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department in the lead-up to the attack in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead. As a result, four State Department officials were disciplined immediately after the report's release. One resigned, while three others were placed on administrative leave and relieved of their duties.

Those actions were deemed insufficient by some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, who told Clinton during a hearing in January he would have "relieved you of your post" had he been president.

He made similar remarks on Friday, telling a crowd of Iowa Republicans that Clinton's actions were "inexcusable" and should "preclude her from holding higher office." Paul is openly considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

His remarks in front of potential Iowa caucus-goers only fueled Democratic accusations Sunday that the Benghazi focus is a veiled bid to discredit Clinton.

"Unfortunately, this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign-this effort to go after Hillary Clinton," Sen. Dick Durbin said on CBS' "Face the Nation." He called Republican scrutiny of Clinton a "witch hunt."

"When Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned 32 times in a hearing…a point of the hearing is to discredit the secretary of state who has very high popularity and may well be a candidate for president," Sen. Dianne Feinstein added on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain also linked Clinton to a bungled administration response to the Benghazi attack, which he amounted to a "cover-up" of information designed to protect the White House.

His accusations were fueled a set of internal e-mails from September that were released this week, which showed top administration officials changing a set of talking points used to describe the Benghazi attack. The talking points were meant for members of Congress, and for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice during appearances on Sunday talk shows.

McCain and other Republicans allege the changes to the talking points – which eliminated references to al Qaeda being involved in the attack, which came less than two months before the presidential election – were politically motivated, since President Barack Obama had campaigned using his administration's handling of national security issues.

Clinton herself isn't shown receiving or sending any of the e-mails herself. But McCain alleged it was impossible for her not to have been involved.

"I think that the secretary of state has played a role in this," the Arizona Republican said on ABC's "This Week."

"She had to have been in the loop some way," he continued. "But, we don't know for sure."

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Libya
soundoff (808 Responses)
  1. Biden

    She was a failure. Now she should be president. Give me a break!! LoL

    May 12, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Name willard

    I don't understand that why hillary clinton was agree accpet from presdient obama so she make to her respossity for 4 murder amercian at benzhina lybia so we are belived that presdient obama was fault leak nontail security at white house
    Obama should get impeachment

    May 12, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Thomas

    She was a failure. Now she should be president. Give me a break!! LoL


    What is success to you ?
    Going into a war for ten years looking for WMDs that don't exist , with thousands of lives lost ?

    Or unfortunately loosing four Americans and seeing Libya free ?

    The key to success is sometimes failing , making mistakes . The key to failure is doing the same thing over and over again with the same results " Insanity ,

    I'll take the mistakes of the current administration over his predecessor any day of the week !

    May 12, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  4. wade

    How could she not be blamed it is totally her fault and responsibility? Not blaming her is as bad as not blaming Obama! It is absurd. There is no one else to blame.

    May 12, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. Elucidated1

    "Republicans walking a fine Iine?" Who is going to believe THAT one? Ron Paul, future pres. candidate just wrote an article openingly saying that Hillary is now not qualified to run for any office. So much for the fine line.

    May 12, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. Ohreally

    Oh what a load. They are going after Clinton and Obama. This isn't about truth. It's about politics and everyone knows it. Issa is the biggest joke of all. His website still has reference to Clinton signing the document that turned down more aid to Benghazi. Even though everyone already knows she has her name on every memo as Secretary of State and was not involved in the "smoking gun" memo. This is another White Water. They will spend months and millions on this and it will reveal nothing. Can you imagine if the GOP spent this much time on jobs? We would be drowning in work.

    May 12, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  7. Vietvet

    If Hillary runs for President in 2016 the GOP can forget about the White House for another four years no matter how much mud they throw at her.

    May 12, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    So, if she weighs the same as a duck,
    Then she's made of wood,
    And she must be,,,,,,,,,
    A CLINTON!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. glorydays

    This ploy by the GOP is so obvious.

    May 12, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  10. Junior111

    This hyena is at his best again!

    May 12, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. Lalz

    GOP is so scared of her LOL.

    May 12, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Cheney

    You discredited your own comment the second you dropped a "lol" in there. LOL.

    May 12, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. mgarrett60

    A bunch of old white men are scared of one old white woman who may or may not run for President in 4 years. Wow, just wow.

    May 12, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. Dan

    These lawmakers clearly don't listen to their citizenry. Who actually cares about the Benghazi incident? This is the most obvious political grandstanding. Put this much effort into something that actually effects the lives of the American people.

    May 12, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. rla

    Overly aggressive???? The Clintons have gotten away wit everything from sex abuse, possible fraud, draft dodging and a possible murder- Please too aggressive- Get on with it – liberals don't live by differnt standards

    May 12, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Debbie

    4 Americans died and that is unfortunate. All 4 knew in advance the unstable positions they would accept. 4000 Americans died in 9/11 & Iraq and Bush and Cheney are not on trial. When that happens I will believe the GOP. Until then..,.this is just a conspiracy. And for the House to use Issa arrested twice for car theft as investigator is not credible.

    May 12, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  17. Teresarentaria

    I would not vote for Hillary, but can't help but feel bad for her. Why does she continue to stand up for these men that do nothing but use and abuse her? She should have never joined Obama's Adminstration.

    May 12, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. KennyG

    The GOP is now treading water with this when they should have be swimming with big strokes before the election. The election would have had a different result and we would not have been left with this ineffective leader.

    May 12, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. dabchick

    Did Issa's nose grow while he was talking?

    May 12, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. Dick LaTrick

    it happened, get over it. this is exactly why the republicans are not working for/with anyone other than themselves. You'll not get a liberal to cross over (and you need them) by using this bashing methodology... its been done to death and we are wiser now – both older and younger voters are turned off by this behavior. We would prefer you change and ADD to the solutions moving forward not clinging to past fears and reclusive behavior, Welcome to the social america you reptiles.

    May 12, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. james of the house

    Get ready to say madam president.

    May 12, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Victor

    The DEMS failed at Benghazi? Why don't we investigate why BUSH FAILED on 9/11 and whether or not he should face THOSE charges?

    May 12, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. wildernessyes

    Repugnicans – Goal is to always destroy others because they sure can't beat them. Pathetic group of politicians and supporters.

    May 12, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. dmwinsd

    Breaking news – House Republicans declare a suspension in the Benghazi hearings to gather more information. The hearings will recommence in May 2016. Speaker Boehner stated that the purpose of the suspension was not politically motivated, but rather the Republicans had counted all of the rocks that had to be overturned in their search for truth and based on that count, 2016 was the earliest they could resume the hearings.

    May 12, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Republicans

    We don't have any proof of anything, but it must be true.

    May 12, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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