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. B K

    Yes she SHOULD be President. And she will. The Repubs have tried desperately to besmirch Obama. They have failed. Now they are going after Hillary so they aren't out of the White House for 16 years. The budget cuts to embassy security were authored by the Repubs. If you are planning on voting for the idiots that are Republicans, you are either a) Stupid b) rich c) a bigot d) all of the above.

    Constitution? "What's that", say the majority of Tebaggers and Republican lawmakers.

    May 12, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  2. RossOKC

    During the G. W. Bush's presidency there were 51 embassy attacks resulting in 13 deaths. In the only 3 hearings, the Secretary of State's role was barely considered, since the Sec. of State is involved in diplomatic and NOT security issues. This is simply a GOP attempt to detract from their own inability to effectively do their jobs in coming up with a budget. The GOP should work on a budget and not waste time on a witch hunt.

    May 12, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. Dave Sweeney

    This is a total witch hunt by the conservative/republicans. This is there only answer because they can't win an election. Don't think for one minute the liberal/democrats wouldn't be doing the same thing if roles were reversed. This situation is one of those which highlights one of the many things wrong with politics in American. If this happened under a conservative/republican president, all the roles would be reversed. The politicians on both sides which be switched and all of the posters on both sides would be switched.

    May 12, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. Quayle

    If Republicans would spend 20% of the energy that they are giving to this issue to the task of fixing the economy we'd be in great shape. Thanks for nothing.

    May 12, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    "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,"
    ...or maybe it's because she was in charge, and is therefore responsible for what happens in her department???
    Maybe I don't speak for all republicans, but all I want to know is the truth! I don't really care that much how Hillary Clinton's political status is changed by this or whatever...just tell me (and the rest of America) the truth!!!

    May 12, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  6. Dave Sweeney

    American politics = hypocracy

    May 12, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. No support

    Issa is the liar of all liars.. everything he does is political and is an effort to twart elections. How else does he explain his 20 investigations and hearings into any and everything that involves a top democrat? He is a used car salesman promising you to ignore the clanking sounds and read the warranty... that for a mere thousand dollars more can be all yours.
    This is nothing but a witch hunt and unfortunately there are a lot of his followers or like minded people who will cry and scream because they are losing the war. These little battles they think they are winning are coming at a big expense and soon Issa will be in the minority and have no more power to pull these political stunts.

    May 12, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. BlueAlliance

    This is a witch hunt, nothing more nothing less! Pity the Dems didn't go after the Bush administration for 9/11....they let the GOP off the hook completely.The obstructionists in congress should be hauled up infront of an inquiry board for charges of treason! Come on Dems, get some backbone!!! Stand up to the GOP for breaking the law against this administration, all because they do not accept a BLACK president. Give them some of their own back.......PLEASE!!!!!

    May 12, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. scootfl78

    Treading carefully is something the GOP is incapable of doing. Whomever wrote this article needs to get their facts straight.

    Almost 3,000 people died on the day of 9/11 because of the terrorist attacks. Did the GOP call for hearings of the leaders in D.C. because of those attacks? No. Did they claim that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense let those attacks happen even though they were definitely preventable? No.

    The GOP voted to cut funding for embassy security not long before the attack in Benghazi (the majority of Democrats voted for continued funding). Is the GOP facing scrutiny by the media (including CNN) for their decision to cut funding? Of course they aren't. Is the GOP facing scrutiny by CNN and the rest of the media for their hypocrisy after deflecting blame from the 9/11 attacks which killed thousands of more people? No, because nobody bothers to actually investigate anymore and instead just posts articles that their corporate sponsors approve of. Shame on you CNN and all the right-wing hypocrites who comment on here who think 9/11 was nothing and Benghazi was the most tragic event that ever happened. Both could have been prevented if the Republicans running the country were doing the job they're paid to do and not playing a high school popularity contest.

    May 12, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  10. Greg

    "The target is how did we fail three different ways" Wow, that's the closest thing I've ever heard to telling us what exactly what this is all about. "... three different ways" – I'm still waiting to hear the first one.

    May 12, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. Indyswimmer66

    "Cartoonish" indeed. GOP is terrified about facing Hillary in '16, figures they'd better start smearing her right now!. "Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates forcefully defended the Obama administration on Sunday against charges that it did not do enough to prevent the tragedy in Benghazi, telling CBS' "Face the Nation" that some critics of the administration have a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces."

    May 12, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  12. Richard

    Thr Republicans should care as much about people here being killed. You send people to the mideast where they Hate Americans there a good chance someone will try an kill you. How come it didn't matter when Bush was President? Why is there such a hate for Obama/ He has done more then Bush ever did to help Americans

    May 12, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. ira wax

    The Republicans and Fox News won't give up with continual hearings on who is responsible for Benghazi. Politics has become a very dirty game in Washington. Why has Washington become so broken? Hatred for a black president? The strong influence of the Koch Brothers? Nothing of importance can get done. The sequester just cut money to head start to help children with lunches, cut money for meals on wheels, so shut in seniors will not get a meal. While this is happening all Republicans can do is keep hashing over Benghazi, not because they want to fix the problem that caused 4 Americans to lose their lives, but rather to put the blame on Democrats, the President, and most of all Hillary Clinton, she is so popular with the public they need to try and get something on her so she won't run in 2016. People this is politics, that's why we call them politicians.

    May 12, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. nogoodnews

    Honestly – the public Is kinda like .... OVER this Benghazi ordeal. Lives were lost – we're very sad about that. But no place in the world is ever 100 percent safe when you choose to be an ambassador. We're a GOP family – and even we're tired of this constant chase about Benghazi from the GOP. It is beginning to sound more political than it really is about lives lost.

    May 12, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  15. Bob

    All conjecture and innuendo from McCain and the rest of the Republicans. Hilary Clinton "had to have been in the loop some way, But, we don't know for sure." Of course they don't, because there is no proof and there won't be any, but actual proof should never get in the way of a good, politically motivated tarnishing of her reputation. The witch hunt by the scumbags continues!

    May 12, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  16. dc

    Benghazi-Gate 2013!!!! God -bye Obammy and Hillary. Marxists around the world will soon be in mourning. God Bless the USA/yes I said God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  17. mattski

    It's not about a failure on one person's part. And no one will remember this when the 2016 elections come around anyway. But we still need to know the answers. Nothing wrong with that. So let's keep asking the questions.

    May 12, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  18. Frank

    Thank you Senator McCain for the always in-depth, fact-based analysis.

    I'd just like to add that I think for certain McCain is getting kickbacks from military contractors for all his years of shilling for them on Capitol Hill. It's impossible for him not to be in the loop, but I can't know for sure.

    May 12, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. bigoutlaw

    Is there a Sunday that goes by without John McCain being on 1 or 2 talk shows. McCain has lost all perspective. His only goal in life is to make life miserable for the man who beat him for the Presidency. I used to like him, but now he is a bitter old man.

    May 12, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  20. Homer10

    Republicons using the dead bodies of the 4 who died to try to further their own political ambitions. Have they no shame? Oh yeah, that's right they don't. They will do anything to win.

    May 12, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  21. John

    I love how these idiots are allowed to level all kinds of evidence with no proof whatsoever. Look at the last sentence. It's all there."She had to have been in the loop some way," he continued. "But, we don't know for sure." Exactly. "We're having a witchhunt based on no evidence, but theoretically it coulda happened". There are a million other theoretical possibilities, including Issa and his merry men cutting security funding for these same facilities. I'd start there before dreaming up more drivel like this. Go back and rehash birther-ism again. It's what we expect...

    May 12, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  22. lIb

    Gee why have I not heard the Ambassador's family crying for Clinton's head? This is shameful actions from the GOP.

    May 12, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Charles, Florida

    In 2011 and 2012, the Republicans in Congress had over $250M removed from the State Department's Embassy Security request. I wonlder why they are now trying to refocus on the State Department as the culprit in this.

    May 12, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. Sf

    Another waste of tax payer money on behalf of course the GOP! Theyll blame that on obama too!

    May 12, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  25. proskater

    the more i look at this country and some of the people in it, im starting to think we are all failures. to be soooo utterly reactionary as many of these extreme right-wing parties are, is truly getting in the way of American progress. grow up and think before speak people, thats what adults do. rather than blaming everybody else for life's unpredictable events, lets have some rational discussions about future policy. an investigation makes sense, of course(but why multiple investigations?). i dont care if hilary runs or not, but im sooo sick of republican hindsight...lets try to be realistic people.

    May 12, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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