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. J.V.Hodgson

    An independent non partisan commission finds and reports Hilary was not directly involved. The " talking points are just that they are being prepared live with little truly accurate information lots of opinions and guesses.
    The words hicks repeated from his base in tripoli in Libya was " we are under attack" yes got it! By whom he does not say or aver an opinion until now. Why? Add in he does not by his own admission pass on his "personal opinion" as chief of station that Night that it was a terrorist attack. He was 650 miles away and had no way of knowing like everyone else.
    Stop this purely politically motivated activity and
    a) look at how things have been changed by the administration
    b) if not good enough please REP ISSA and committee issue your additional recommendations
    Then get on with dealing with job creation and budget resolution issues. Please. Thats far more important.

    May 13, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  2. 2ForTea

    GOP Losers, You always live up to the 'villian' role. Impeachment of Bill Clinton.. 5 members of GOP committee (AKA Witchhunt) later found to have had affairs, including the chair, Rep Hyde. You investigate for political gain, then let abhorent actions by GW Bush Administration, slip by. John McCain, the biggest, smallest, oldest hypocrit of the bunch.. why are you even close to a mic. Someday humanity will weed the defective gene pool from positions of authority.

    May 13, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  3. Obama

    GOP was a failure. Now they should STILL be part of the government? Give me a break! LoL

    May 13, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  4. Wulf

    @Biden – kind of how Palin quit her job as Governor yet the Republicans wanted her to be a president?

    The difference here is, Libya was a war torn area with inherent danger and countless armed militias running around. Sure someone screwed up but this is obviously being blown out of proportion for political means by the right.

    Hillary Clinton, like her or not is about 100x smarter than the Sarah Palins and Michelle Bachman's the GOP keeps throwing out there – and this looks to most Americans like a witch hunt just to make her look bad.

    May 13, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  5. Sn0wjob

    Ok, "Biden".. could you have possibly offered up a more pathetic comment? Benghazi has turned into a shameful GOP witch-hunt. Hillary Clinton is a true patriot – albeit not perfect. W. Bush on the other hand got away with the deaths of 7000+ dead soldiers, THIRTEEN embassy attacks on his watch and the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi civilians in his pursuit of non-existent WMD's. Was he ever subject to ANY hearings, much less impeachment?? The GOP is a pathetic circus sideshow.

    May 13, 2013 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  6. dfromlv

    Republicans....please, stop trying to sling mud and cheat your way to the whitehouse. Just put together a respectable agenda that is supported by a majority of voters. Of course mistakes were made. Lets try GW for the thousands of dead and wounded soldiers from his foolish war in Iraq. They look like clowns on this one.

    May 13, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  7. Poodlepuff

    The conservatives in the GOP, and those in the far right Tea Party, see Hillary Clinton as their greatest fear. For once a strong intelligent woman will take on everything that they can throw at her and experience something they have rarely experienced. For once a Democrat will fight back with the vehemence and wisdom that the GOP will find disconcerting.

    May 13, 2013 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  8. Carol

    These Republicans are just grinding the wheels of government to a halt. They don't even work 5 days a week! I get nauseous every time I see or hear about Issa.

    May 13, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  9. Scott

    I believe it's time to rehash the 9/11 investigation.

    May 13, 2013 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  10. Tommy Mack

    When Bush was in office, there were 10 attacks on US embassies leading to 60 deaths. Where was the fabricated outrage then?

    May 13, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. osilama Abu

    Republicans keep fooling themselves over the Libyan issue. What happened in Benghazi was complacency and not a cover up. There are currently other issues that require both parties to tackle- like immigration, infrastructural developments, jobs and Gun violence, instead a lot of focus is on the past they cannot change, but learn from. All these grand standing will only complicate issues and make solutions to prevent future attacks impossible. I believe Americans deserve better representatives in congress, than the current Sunday talk show politicians it currently has.

    May 13, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  12. disgustedNY

    Lol Issa now says there are no political targets...yeah right!

    May 13, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  13. Phaerisee

    When you are at a 71 negative approval rating the best thing to do is attack the rival Presidential candidate.

    May 13, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  14. Tommy Mack

    And to remind people of FACTS:
    1-22-02 US Consulate at Kolkata: 5 killed
    6-14-02 US Consulate Karachi: 12 killed
    2-28-03 US Embassy Islamabad: 2 killed
    6-30-04 US Embassy Tashkent: 2 killed
    12-6-04 US Compound Saudi Arabia: 9 Killed
    3-2-06 US Consulate Karachi: 2 killed
    9-12-06 US Embassy Syria: 4 killed
    3-18-08 US Embassy Yemen: 2 Killed
    7-9-08 US Consulate Istambul: 6 killed
    9-17-08 US Embassy Yemen: 16 killed.

    May 13, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  15. GOP is sad

    The GOP who fought tooth and nail against any enquiry into 9/11 now froths at the mouth to rehash Benghazi over and over and over again. Sad sad little hypocrits.

    May 13, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  16. Mitt Robme

    The Democrats had nothing to do with this, it was my GOP constituents. If they would have just nuked Iraq, we would have won the presidency and I would finally get that last thing on my bucket list, be the King of America! Then, with my crystal ball, I would have seen what was coming. I'd Get on the tele and give my overseas contacts a call, hire me some ninjas and gone all yaya on their keisters before our four friends died. That would of'd shown them! Don't worry about the bill, the taxpayers would have covered it and I would have used it as a write off, 9% yearly taxes, BOOM!

    May 13, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  17. RandyKC

    What balance?
    The Republican-lead "investigation" has been nothing but an attempt to find fault with Clinton. Should our military have been closer? Yes. Has that been corrected? Yes. Are Issa and Paul unbiased? They are as partisan as they come. McCain is becoming more polarized and less respectable the more he becomes involved in these types of "investigations". Anything happens and Issa, a crook by any measure, is there to try to score points.
    Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are just two sides of the same smelly coin you'd find on the bathroom floor. I leave it to you to decide which is heads.

    May 13, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  18. Truthful1

    Well Kevin, if your Colleague with CNN didn't help Obama cover up Bengahzi along with Martha Ratchet it up Ratchet it down Raddatz of ABC colluded with Obama during the debates with Romney, we wouldn't be having this disscusion now would let's give credit where its do....ABC, and a Lone Anchor with CBS who was demoted along with Hicks for dredging the Bengahzi Attack back to even the forfront of the Main Stream Media. Everyone knows that Obama and Clinton along with Rice...oh yeah!....the guy who was indicted by DNC Senators for Gun-Running, and killing innocent people in Mexico, and our very own American Border Guards, but of course the Kool Aide Drinkers in the DNC along with thier very young uneducated uninformed Student population from the Marxist Universities of America, and let's not forget our Sell-Out America Black Americans who wanted to reelect the Self Radicalized Gay loving Communist Islamo-Maniac, Obama for clearly Racist Motives, except 15% of the Black Men who voted for Romney because of thier Conservitive Ideology who couldn't stomach Obama's Socialist Marxist Agenda with Unemployment for Blacks realisticly hovering 25%. All of these Sheep, along with half of the Hispanics who were left with typical empty promises and Lies from Obama. Obama is our President, and as he said in the debate with Kandy of CNN, "I'm the President, and I take full responsibility for what happened in Bengahzi." I just have one question Kevin....Did Kandy just so happened to have the Transcripts from the Bengahzi Attack so that CNN and the Jay Carney ordered by Obama, provided Transcripts to CNN so Obama could win that Prtesidental Debate, and Bengahzi along with the deaths of four brave Americans were left to die so your annointed one could be President?

    May 13, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  19. Pat

    Why aren't Bush and Cheney in prison awaiting execution?

    May 13, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  20. Just a thought


    How does it feel to repeat Faux stupidity under the Democratic VP's name? That's a pretty pathetic existence. BTW do you have a better Presidential candidate from the GOP/Tea-A-Tards clown wagon? LOL....How's that wilderness thing working out? HA HA

    May 13, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  21. clemvinson71

    How many feet do republicans have left to shoot? Nevermind gun control, the GOP needs stricter tongue control measures. The more they gripe and complain, the more obvious their obstructionism becomes. It would of been very easy to take the high road on this one and seek answers for the victims and families involved, but once again, they just can't help turning everything into partisan politics... grow up or get out...

    May 13, 2013 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  22. Zoglet

    Why is it the American gov feel they have the right to interfere in other nations internal politics and that they have a right to do this without repercussions?

    Put bluntly, had the US not been meddling in Libya, overthrowing governments and supporting rebel/terrorist groups, then no Americans would have died.

    Isn't this the elephant in the room with this inquiry?

    May 13, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  23. BLE7481

    "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."

    If the independent review board reached a truly ihdependent conclusion based on full disclosure of the facts, then what is there to protest – "loudly" or otherwise?

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
    -Hamlet, Act III Scene II

    May 13, 2013 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  24. Tiger

    I think Obama has now surpassed Bush in the quantity of lies, he was able to do it in 5 years vs. 8. I am thinking Obama will somehow spin this into Bush's fault though.

    May 13, 2013 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  25. Chutzpah

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

    The man needs a mental checkup.

    May 13, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
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