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. seanster5977

    She proves her absolute inability to lead. She not only messed up the entire mission in Libya, but is unwilling to be a leader and say I am in charge and I take responsibility. This whole crew of liars and manipulators show what a group of clowns are minding the store.

    May 13, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  2. TomInRochNY

    Sounds like republican deseration to me. They can't win fairly, so they'll win anyway they can. Afterall, there are profits to be made.

    May 13, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  3. Texas

    Just more Sideshow Antics from the Gop, Ala the Whitewater Hearings. To the GOP, it's never about justice or freedoms, it's about Political Grandstanding , ego and revenge.

    May 13, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  4. John

    Nothing like the media trying to protect their pawns, if the roles were reverse, meaning a Republican was in charge. That person would be left out there to hang in the wind.

    May 13, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  5. jim

    Typical CNN bias. The committee is only 'targeting' what the facts are.
    Hillary Clinton, who has never said or thought anything interesting or notable in her life, has her own problems for 2016.

    May 13, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  6. JHH

    Overly aggressive? Four Americans were murdered and this administration gave the public one false answer after another. (when they DID even give an answer) If the media thinks the investigation is overly aggressive, then too bad! There are questions that need answers, and this woman is first in line to answer them. Whether she likes it or not. As for her political career, she should've thought about that before helping Obama feed lies to the public about this attack!

    May 13, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  7. Rick McDaniel


    Clinton did nothing as Secretary of State, but give away money to both our few friends, and ALL of our enemies.

    In regards to Benghazi, she was absolutely a willing participant in the most obvious, glaring, cover up, in modern history.

    May 13, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  8. John Tieso

    CNN takes far too much time trying to defend the outrages committed by members of the Obama Administration –calling everything political, while defending Obama's right to do exactly the opposite. he gets the credit, somehoiw, for turning us into a socialist state, while CNN defends his every action.

    May 13, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  9. IvotedforObama

    It is all about hurting her for 2016. These crybabies don't care about Benghazi or the lives lost only the chance to hurt her. If they TRULY cared for political mistakes they would have been all over Bush and why he sent 4500 Americans to their deaths or th eover 60 diplomatic personnel killed under Bush.

    May 13, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  10. chuck

    Sad to watch this debacle..the republican party is so desperate.

    May 13, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  11. Jackie

    It was a tragedy for 4 American lives to be lost. My prayers go out to their families and friends...however.....instead of pointing a finger....what is being done to correct the poor decisions that the State Department employees made? They were relieved of their duties. My guess is....this will always be a sad event, but, insiginificant regarding Hillary Clinton's run for POTS. I know...let's start looking again for those weapons on mass destruction. THAT WAS A TRUE TRAGEDY!

    May 13, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  12. dak22447

    Repubs won't have another pres without a scandal or voter suppression.

    May 13, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  13. Michael A. (Wake Forest, NC)

    Once this investigation is complete, regardless of the outcome, will we see a vigorous and through investigation of "Bush/Cheney"? And the way we were duped into going into Iraq? Which by the way cost the U.S. thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and a continued hardship on righting our financial woes. What do you say republicans? Can the American people have their cake and eat it to? Dispicable!!!!

    May 13, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  14. Mike

    It is about time somebody walked the line and told the truth. Did Clinton "misspeak" yet again?

    May 13, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. Jules

    Of course they are targeting Clinton. They know she would be the toughest opponent in 2016 so they are trying to sully her up now, but as usual, the GOP will overplay their hand. Don't think all the American people are dumb enough not to see what is going on. The GOP obstructed President Obama since his first day in office and now they want to get rid of the toughest candidate they could face in 2016. Same ol same ol GOP. No ideas, no solutions, just throwing garbage. By the way – why are these hearings taking so much longer than the 9/11 hearings when our couontry was attacked and 3000 killed. Where's the request for the Clinton admin. memos that warned the Bush admin about a pending terror attack from Bin Laden in this country? Hypocrits!

    May 13, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  16. stevo

    shouldn't you guys be more worried why these people lied to the american public? or maybe why they used some story about a video starting all this? how about that side using all this for political gain right before an election? none of that bothers you unless it's done by a conservative... I find it very funny/concerning that a "news" organization uses so many SNL skits for news

    May 13, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  17. Joe

    Let's assume for one minute that Hillary was not involved. That would only provide that Hillary was out of touch and incompetent. Either way, Hillary needs to go away. The republicans did not make Hillary a target, Hillary mad Hillary a target.

    May 13, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  18. mb2010a

    Republicans just trying to "swiftboat" Clinton before the 2016 election. They know if she runs for President that she will be impossible to beat and they are running scared. Typical...what an obvious waste of taxpayers money.

    May 13, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  19. What

    She will not win now.

    This makes her look, well, bad.

    How are we suppose to trust her?

    May 13, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  20. Wake up People!

    Yeah right President Obama is not a target. He has been a target for the GOP since the day he was elected in 08. Hillary became a target when she put aside her differences with the POTUS, and became SOS. Now that they fear Hillary running for POTUS in 2016 they are losing their collective minds. Could all of their obstruction come back to bite them in the butt? Here's to hoping it does.

    Hillary Clinton 2016!!

    May 13, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  21. Searcher

    So, the TEAliban is so afraid of HILLARY that they are trying to "manufacture" a scandal. But they will STILL LOSE in 2016!

    May 13, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  22. ricke1949

    Cover up. Plain and simple

    May 13, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  23. Ken

    In 1972 when third rate burglars got caught wiretapping a hotel and nobody died, Woodward and Bernstein won Pulitzer prizes, movies were made, and Nixon was forced to resign. Forty years later, when the President got caught lying and four Americans died in a terrorist assault on an American consulate, the press couldn't care less. Not only that, the press writes articles like this one, blaming Republicans for going on a "witch hunt".

    May 13, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  24. El Flaco

    Republicans don't know what happened in Benghazi and they do not care. They certainly do not give a crap about dead federal employees.

    However, we all know what the findings of this 'investigation' will be.

    They will find that the death of the Ambassador was caused by bad decisions made by Obama and Clinton – whether it is true or not.

    They will find that military rescue was easily possible at no risk to the rescuers – whether it was possible or not.

    They will find that eager rescuers were told to 'stand down' by Obama personally, because he believed – somehow – that rescuing the Americans would hurt his re-election chances.

    We can skip the whole investigation. The final report has already been written.

    Everyone who is reading these words knows that they are true.

    May 13, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  25. dragonfire77

    "Republicans find themselves balancing their quest for answers with charges of being overly aggressive in a bid for political gain."

    – Too late, that's all the GOP is about any more. There's nothing to that party any more, except a raw, unchecked quest for power. Nothing is more important to a Republican than having their party in power, not even the security of the nation.

    May 13, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
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