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. king

    these repubs doesn't give a rat buttock about the disaster at Benghazi. they only care about their political premise. you will notice that their focus is not on the attack itself or the prevention of another attack, their real focus is on the aftermath of the talking points, and who change them, while milking it for every juice they can get from it. WHAT THE HELL DOES THE AFTERMATH HAVE TO DO WITH FOUR PEOPLE DYING. The reason why the republicans are not focusing on the attack itself and how to prevent another one, is because they dont want the government to spend no more money. they are trying to cut the government down so small that it wont exist, and since the repubs congress is the guys that are holding this nation purse, they will do every thing in their power to cut government, especially the state department. so their interest is not preventing another Benghazi because their right flank will go nutts if they propose spending more money to beef up embassy security. i guest the rich will take care of security in these places, since the repubs dont want them to pay taxes. i somehow cannot understand their ideology, because its not rational, all they ever does is cry cry cry about anything Obama does, yet they doesn't have any solution that makes sense, other than to give the rich more money so they can build china into the next superpower and leave us behind.

    May 13, 2013 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  2. Michael Hobart

    If Rand Paul feels that Hilary Clinton is disqualified for high office because of Benghazi, then what is his opinion of President Bush? Should he have resigned or been impeached over 9/11? Given Senator Paul's positions and theatrical performances in the Senate, it is my fervent hope that he is never elected to a position where he could fire a Secretary of State...

    May 13, 2013 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  3. T

    .........This is a JOKE, right. I mean........W. Bush LIED to us all , and then sentenced ....4486.... American service members to his illegal Iraqi invasion...................
    ..........and NOT A SINGLE republican says a word................

    May 13, 2013 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  4. danielwalldammit

    Hard to stomach people who gave a free pass to Bush on so many reckless actions and lives spent like chump change making hay over this, but someone screwed up.

    May 13, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  5. Jason

    Are you kidding? Tread softly? They are comparing this to Watergate. They are wasting everyone's time in an attempt to discredit someone with something that is totally irrelevant instead of spending all of their time doing their jobs.

    May 13, 2013 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  6. J.R.Roberts

    Republican 20/20 hindsight – that will be properly rewarded in 2016.

    May 13, 2013 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  7. Joe's great

    Keep digging repugs. It's your only hope for 2016, Since you have no candidate of the caliber of Hillary

    May 13, 2013 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  8. Brian

    We need to find the truth.

    May 13, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  9. Niko

    The Republican Party is an embarrassment, to itself if not anyone else. They can't win on the basis of their platform, so they seek out "scandals" in a vain attempt to make themselves look as if they have something to contribute. Their venomous attacks are especially directed at the Clinton's. Anything of value they have to contribute is buried under their pettiness and obstructionism. They lost me years ago. It amazes me that they have any following at all.

    May 13, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  10. Tom

    Its funny how the right always wants to attack those who threaten their agenda,yet how many attacks under Bush's watch were ever known to have congressional hearings on them for his failures to protect Americans citizens overseas. None,ever, yet many more were killed under his watch,Same ole B.S from the pubby guards, get over it you lost the election and now attacking Hillary to prevent another loss is the best you can do. Quit wasting taxpayer time and money on something thats no longer rleveant and move on to much bigger,importatnt issues, like gun control,jobs, etc

    May 13, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  11. Anonymous

    The GOP needs to tread lightly. The Democrats and the far left media are out to get them at every turn. Their darlings - Obama and Clinton - are being clearly revealed as compulsive liars, deceivers, and criminals. They will seek to discredit the GOP in any way they can. Who cares about the truth? Who cares about the scandal? Who cares about the tyrrany it exposes?

    May 13, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  12. Marie MD

    They are walking a fine line because they still, after all these months of trying sort of like repeal Obamacare, can't find anything that points to her.
    If rethugs spent, wasted really, all this time doing something good for the country instead of grandstanding our country would be climbing the ladder not falling like we are in everything from monetary problems to education.

    May 13, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  13. josh p.

    Off course they are,none of them want the American public to really know,what was happening in Benghazi,Stevens got killed by the same Scums he paid to murder Kadaffi,simple as that,he was using that rented house which was not a consulate,to smuggle weapons out of Libya to Syria,simple as that.

    May 13, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  14. Both Parties Svck

    We left those men to die.

    May 13, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  15. Jehan S

    Nobody investigated Bush for Tillman's death or that of thousands of soldiers. Why is the Republican party suddenly interested in the deaths of people? They are the ones that setup the system that failed in Benghazi. They are the ones who cut back the budgets for security.

    May 13, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    GWB was a colossal failure of historic proportion, failing to piece together intelliegence that pointed to members of al-Qaeda who were planning to carryout a catastrophic attack on our nation on 9/11. Then to save face, he dragged us into two illegitimate wars. Yet he was re-elected only to lead our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I wonder by the Bush cabinet and the GOP aren't dentained at the ICC for treason and war crimes against humanity!

    May 13, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  17. janice2708

    How come Congress hasn't called the Chief of Mission of Benghazi and questioned him or her? Because it is the sole responsibility of this person is the security of the embassy. And how can congress call the deputy chief of mission a whistleblower after he's been demoted for not doing his job? There is still allot we don't know.

    May 13, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  18. al

    Republican's way to win elections is to make the other person look bad so they look good.

    May 13, 2013 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  19. Hammerdown

    Are they using the same shovel they used hunting
    for that fake birth certificate ?
    Another witch hunt.

    May 13, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  20. Wandering Soul

    US faciity attacked, assistance denied, ABC News' discovery about lies to Congress (that's who the talking points were crafted for) and the US citizens, and the only people fired or demoted were people in Benghazi who survived.

    Yep, sounds about right.

    May 13, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  21. Say what?

    a waste of time.... Maybe if they showed just an ounce of that into the budget, we wouldnt be in our shoes now...

    May 13, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  22. mfvjr

    It is becoming frustrating that until now that this issue of Benghazi have not been put to rest yet. As an ordinary citizen looking at it, there is no doubt there is a failure in the chain of command, complacency and failure of recognition of the volatility of the situation. It is beyond my understanding why these quasi-intellectuals keep spinning the wheel until the wheel itself will fall off. Put the blame where it should be, period. Move on, there are more pressing problems facing the country. Disgusting.

    May 13, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  23. Idiot Liberal Logic

    Hire the handicap, they don't do much work, but they sure are fun to watch and that is why we want Hillary to be our next president!!!

    May 13, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  24. ricky

    Hillary is way she gets elected in 2016 after this fiasco. she is a liar and a phony..

    May 13, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  25. Alpha Deus

    Howabout we arrest rand paul for his father taking social security and yet being critical of it...because its as big a leap as trying to blame Clinton for not having anything to do with this krap...then again, they tried to blame Iraq on Obama, killing bin laden on bush, the recession on the dems and the recovery on the not such a wide jump after all

    May 13, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33