May 12th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
12 months 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. Mike

    If only Issa was as interested in finding the people who actually committed the attack or giving adequate funding for security to the embassies.

    May 13, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  2. s.jones

    The sign in front of her says "Honorable". There's no Honor there. She should pay for what she did (she knows full well what that was and what her role of responsibility was). She needs to be relieved of the position and replaced by someone more competant. Mr. President should be Impeached to boot.

    May 13, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  3. srichey321

    @Biden. More hypocrisy and political finger pointing. What's new. You know what? Clinton will win if 2016 if she decides to run. The republican party has a habit of shooting themselves in the face and trotting out complete bozos as candidates.

    May 13, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  4. 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 many people cringe in disbelief! One can only imagine the state of our nation’s security had she become the next US.Sec. of State!

    Many Americans 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, Ant-American/Indian/Western/Russian/Israeli tirade through his SUGARCOATED poison pills for consumption by GULLIBLE Americans...........all under cover of the LIBERAL MEDIA.

    May 13, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  5. 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 many people cringe in disbelief! One can only imagine the state of our nation’s security had she become the next US.Sec. of State!

    Many Americans 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.

    May 13, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  6. arbie

    Who would you suggest they target? Obama, Hillary and Rice seem appropriate. Where does the buck stop? Was someone else in charge?

    May 13, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  7. randy

    yeah, when I compare this to G. Bush starting two wars and bankrupting our country I really see this as a major event...

    NOT!

    May 13, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  8. RoscoeB

    The GOP going after Hillary for Political Reasons??? Nah, not possible, they are all such fine , caring gentlemen who would never, for example, support the impeachment of Bill Clinton while having an affair at the same time (see Gingrich, Newt, and more currently Sanford, Mark)

    May 13, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. KLARGAR

    Darrel Issa convicted felon, Arson, Illegal concealed weapon, what else look him up on Wikipedia he is a slime bag. This whole Benghazi affair is a partisan witch hunt. How about the fact that Issa and his fellow tea baggers cut funding to protect our embassies because they felt we were spending too much. The whole investigation is a sham to attempt to discredit Obamm and nothing else.

    May 13, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  10. misty

    So you are one of the blind wheel! Open your eyes America, its the repubs trying to distract you from the poor job they are doing!

    May 13, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  11. Mack

    She's a better option than anything the teapubs have to offer.

    May 13, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  12. Mike Texoma

    Anyboody that believes Darrell Issa is an idiot.

    May 13, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  13. scieng1

    Clinton's situation must be clarified before the 2016 run. Either she must be exonerated, or jailed, or simply shown for a liar and an incompetent. As the head of an agency who knew that her employees were under attack and being murdered on the job, it was her responsibility to ensure their survival in any way possible. We need to understand why she ignored their pleas before and during the attack. Additionally, we need to understand why those responsible are still free to continue murder to others and destruction of a new government. Either there were good reasons for not doing her job, or she needs to be tried for complicity to murder or treason. If the liberal media will not do a credible job of investigation, the GOP must do it. Justice demands it.

    May 13, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  14. Steve

    Mrs. Clinton was the head of the department and not only should, but must, be questioned as to what act she played in this latest fiasco. There is no "fine line" in her questioning. People died. Things still haven't been uncovered in the "fast and furious" scandal and no one punished. This latest scandal will fade too when it shouldn't.

    May 13, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  15. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    The GOP is doing nothing to help us out of this recession and a variety of other woes. Instead, they concoct this dog and pony show. How pathetic this party has become!

    May 13, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  16. NOT MY CHAIR

    once again we ignore real issues for political gains...

    May 13, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  17. s.jones

    Oh Gee. She no longer holds that position ..does she.. She should still be prosecuted....

    May 13, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. Joe Clark

    Hilliary was in charge at the time of the attack and as the saying goes, and as was clearly stated on President Truman's desk – " The Buck Stops Here! " She must assume responsibility as the leader of the State Department.

    May 13, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  19. plain&simple

    Why does John McCain even move his lips? "She had to be in the loop some way." "We don't know for sure". That's sure settles it.....guessing is the game played by the party who could care less about the well being of this nation's people. These last 5 years of doom and gloom,of pure political obstruction have shown these selfish egomaniacs for what they are.

    May 13, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. SAGG

    Funny how Benghazi was President Obama's problem, then after he won reelection, Hillary Clinton's. Gotta use those tenderizers to pound her down for 2016, I guess...

    May 13, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  21. Cynh

    Witch Hunt! Its all politics!

    May 13, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  22. NYSur4

    "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."

    This one almost made me fall out of my chair.

    May 13, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  23. BCW

    GOPs just want to do what they always love – bashing women and take away women's rights. The cave men have come out form the cave and pound their chests for attention. Unfortunately, GOPs just cannot accept the truth and the report findings; just like they cannot accept the majority of the American people want Obama for President. That's wahy GOPs bash immigrants and people of colors. Shame, shame, shame!

    May 13, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  24. Surprised

    There is someone more important than Hillary, although she should be brought to task too. Only one person can give the military an order to "stand down." That is the President. They need to go after Obama. He is the one that caused their deaths, or at least did nothing to stop them. When our troops are on the way.....disgusting for a President to pull them back and let good men die. Did he have something against the ambassador? He certainly doesn't care about the military, unless he gets a good photo, it seems.

    May 13, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  25. hannah

    Why weren't these investigated?

    June 14, 2002, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
    Suicide bomber kills 12 and injures 51.

    February 20, 2003, international diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Truck bomb kills 17.

    February 28, 2003, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
    Gunmen on motorcycles killed two consulate guards.

    July 30, 2004, U.S. embassy in Taskkent, Uzbekistan
    Suicide bomber kills two.

    December 6, 2004, U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Militants stormed and occupied perimeter wall. Five killed, 10 wounded.

    March 2, 2006, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
    Suicide car bomber killed four, including a U.S. diplomate directly targeted by the assailants.

    September 12, 2006, U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria
    Gunmen attacked embassy with grenades, automatic weapons, and a car bomb (though second truck bomb failed to detonate). One killed and 13 wounded.

    January 12, 2007, U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece
    A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the embassy building. No one was injured.

    July 9, 2008, U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
    Armed men attacked consulate with pistols and shotguns. Three policemen killed.

    March 18, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana'a, Yemen
    Mortar attack misses embassy, hits nearby girls' school instead.

    September 17, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana'a, Yemen
    Militants dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles, grenades and car bombs. Six Yemeni soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Sixteen more were injured.

    May 13, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
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