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. Odo

    Issa is useless...all he DOES is conduct witch hunts.....Where is the "witch hunt" dealing with the GOP massive reduction in the Embassy Security budget the last 2 fiscal years?? Were is the investigation into the fact that Bush & co. were warned about 9/11 and chose to do nothing???

    May 13, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    That's rich. Republicans claim that the independent probe didn't place sufficient blame on Sec'y Clinton. A few months ago they were putting all of the blame on Pres. Obama. Now it's Sec'y Clinton, who I don't think will run in 2016, anyway. When is it going to be VP Biden's turn to be in the Benghazi crosshairs?

    May 13, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  3. Alfranken

    And while we are at it let's find out where and if the Reagan goons were involved in which they managed to setup Carter during the Iran-Contra scandal.

    May 13, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  4. JR

    Rep. Darrell Issa. Another anti-constructive, pathetic , childish GOP member hell bent on destroying America for power and votes. No actions on health care, Wall Street, nor anything else of substance coming from this Communist-like party.

    May 13, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. Pete

    @Biden,she wasn't a failure and if you want examples of real failures here's a few in Hoover,Reagan,Bushs and Nixon for good measure they're actual fact checked failures..And Biden in denile about voting for them all which you probibly did being a straight line sanctumonious republican or a masquerading independent,ignorent as well!!

    May 13, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  6. Andrew

    Like the downsizer extremist the GOP ran bringing jobs, LoL.

    May 13, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  7. Hoagie58

    It used to be that when there was a major blunder in a government agency, accountability went all the way to the top; even to the department director. That seems to have ended, when cabinet officials suddenly became political candidates. How far up the chain is the IRS debacle going to go? I'm betting not to the top.

    May 13, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  8. Mike

    Targeting one of the most popular female figures in America is risky? Duh!

    May 13, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  9. Judge Nan

    Mc'Cain is about as believable as Cheney. Take your Geritol and leave the building.
    It's always someone elses fault. If Hillary runs for President and she wins, that is telling you that more people believe in her and what really happened and DISBELIEVES a bunch of grumpy Republicans that lost and will continue to lose.

    May 13, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  10. Boo

    Hey Biden – that's funny coming from someone who probably voted for George W. Bush....TWICE.

    May 13, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  11. bayou2

    Twin Towers, Bush is a failure, two wars. The republicans have nothing to offer for 2016!!!

    May 13, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  12. RachaelA

    She was secretary of state. It was her job. It's not personal. (But she did run away from the job pretty quickly after all this went down.)

    May 13, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Sen. Ayotte, you really should keep your comments to yourself. Your time in the Senate is coming to a short end. As far as Mr. Issa's witch hunt goes, these republicans better tread lightly. They've already politicized this issue at the disgust of many of us.

    May 13, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  14. MikeMongo

    So the press is still attempting to somehow "deligitimize" the inquiry due to poliitical motivation, while ignoring the fact that there was clearly an abrogation of responsibilities in manipulating, lying, and concealing facts from the public on something that had life and death consequences for our personnel overseas..

    May 13, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  15. RickC

    Translation, Hilary is going to wipe the floor with the GOP in 2016 so lets smear her while we still can and hope for the best.

    May 13, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  16. bayou2

    McCain is shooting his mouth off, what a sore loser, you have turned into a total joke.

    May 13, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  17. Deez

    All politicians should focus more on what's best for the American people instead of bashing "the other side".

    In the end, they are simply spreading false information and dividing our country!

    May 13, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  18. roger

    You would think that Clinton would be the center of the investigation since she was the head of the State Department. Did I miss something. Did she step down before this happened. Somewhere down the line all accountability has left the people in Washington. It's no different than the IRS thinking an apology is enough for what they did with a promise that it won't happen again. No accountability. No body loses their job. They're above that. To bad.

    May 13, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  19. digger

    As much as I intensely dislike her, it would not surprise me that she was kept ou of the loop.

    May 13, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  20. chill

    So lucky then that Rand Paul will not ever be President. Not of this country anyway.

    May 13, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  21. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    If Hillary Clinton is a target in these investigations.....WHY SHOULDN'T SHE BE?

    American public need to get all the answers and it appears that there are still far too many questions.

    Fundamentally we still don't know who gave the talking points to Ambassador Rice. Whatever the facts the passion with which that SLEAZE defended the lies made me CRINGE. Just imagine the state of our country had she become the next US.Sec. of State.

    I also have serious questions about Obama's own foresight given that his FIRST CHOICE for the Sec. of State position was Ambassador Rice and NOT Kerry.

    And, thankfully, after trying in vain to DECEITFULLY USURP that position during the 2004 elections CNN's Mr.FAREED ZAKARIA seems to have taken a backseat, being content with continuing his PRO-ISLAMIST, ANTI-AMERICAN, ANTI-INDIAN, campaign through his SUGARCOATED poison pills for consumption by GULLIBLE Americans...........under cover of the LIBERAL MEDIA.

    May 13, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  22. Jeff

    If she did something wrong, lock her up. If her boss knew about it lock him up too. Lock Carney up so Bubba can have him as his girlfriend. Find every single person involved, Democrat or Republican, and throw them in prison.

    May 13, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  23. Fourleaf Tayback

    Benghazi was a cold blooded political calculation made by members of the Obama Administration. The calculation was...if we do nothing to help the Ambassador and his team...and are able to blame the attack on a film the President's Re-election will be better off than if we try to save the Ambassador and his team and call it what it really was...Islamic terror. SO SAD...But that is what it was....a calculation.

    May 13, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  24. Brian

    Overly aggressive??? What is this....Playtime....You people and how you write your stories is just unreal. STOP COVERING THIS UP.

    May 13, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    According to Mr. Hicks, word came in about an attack on the Benghazi compound and a decision was made to evacuate, instead of launching a counter-attack. Any counter-attack would have meant 4 men going up against at least 30 attackers, as reported by Mr. Hicks. Hicks also testified that Amb. Stevens' went missig during the initial phase of the attack and appeared to be lost or trapped inside of a burning building.

    Obviously, Mr. Hicks disagree with the decision. I find Hicks' actions, words, and response to the decision to evacuate, and not counter-attack, to be highly insubordinate. What were the people supposed to do while they waited for the counter-attack to come? Play hide and seek for a couple of hours?

    May 13, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
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