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. stainpouch

    I wonder how often the Republican party thinks it can dupe us–I have never seen a clearer instance of a politically motivated investigation than this one. You'd think that after all the corruption the Bush admin handed us (it was a new outrage nearly every day!), they'd be shamed into a few months of silence–but not these clowns–hey, remember when they "lost" 328 TONS OF 100 DOLLAR BILLS? That was a good one–a just an afternoon's work. The next day: "What money–we don't remember any money.". Here's the deal my right wing friends: Nixon was a psychopath–got it? You've been trying to get even for Nixon's removal from office for forty years now–don't you think (and I use the term in the most general way) it's time to move on? We do. No, Hillary is not going away. Sh'e going to be your next President. Get used to it.

    May 13, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. Gary

    I am ashamed of the current administration as far as communication and readiness during such an attack. Misleading the public for political gain and all. They should have followed Bush’s example when handling 911, Afghanistan, Iraq and Katrina. Why we were all on top of things then. We knew everything and acted accordingly. We were ready then and had all the answers … oh .. wait … my bad .. oops sorry I take it back ... I take it back

    May 13, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. Kpet

    having served on an editorial committee and a board of directors I can attest that "talking points" are always edited by a group of people to make sure they are accurate. Edits and changes do not indicate deceit, they do not rule it out but nether would a statement that was not edited at all. The fact is they did not know for sure who did it and why the day of or the day after, it takes time to achieve a level of certainty. There is no question this is another assault to attempt to impeach the President where no evidence or even justification for calling for impeachment exists.

    May 13, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  4. daveinla

    Kind of like the IRS targeting conservative groups.CNN's lead: "The Castro Brothers." Amazing. HillaryClinton? A phony just like her husband. And I voted for the guy twice. What a fool I was.

    May 13, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. Carl

    Ha Ha. Walks a "fine line". This is not a "line" its a highway that leads directly to Mrs. 4 Eyes and our Commander of Wellfare.

    May 13, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. hannah

    And the biggest failure of all, 9-11–Multiple warnings before attack on twin towers and yet, it happened anyway and 3 thousand were killed.

    May 13, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. tricky dick

    It was all about the last election and now it is about the next election. do you think we are so dumb we can not see that?

    May 13, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  8. Whatever

    Pure politically motivated witch hunt, which only the republicans are playing into. For the rest of us (independents and democrats) we see it for what it is....a waste of time.

    May 13, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  9. jim

    Notice how Clinton is willing to take general blame in order to avoid specific questions.

    May 13, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  10. Tim

    It is stunning how the main-stream media tries to make this story about anything except the incompetence ad dishonesty of Obama, Clinton, and their cronies. The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's department allowed Americans to be murdered, and then tried to cover-up their failures with lies to the American people. That is the story.

    May 13, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  11. Wes Scott

    Sadly, Rand Paul thinks that he is going to win the GOP nomination in 2016, which he will not because he is a bigger nut job than his daddy, and he knows that if he does get the nomination and goes on to face Hillary Clinton in the general election she will wipe the floor with him.

    Who cares what the gas bag Rand Paul says? He is a Teabagger, so anything he says is already tainted by his manical ideology.

    May 13, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  12. Christy Yamaguci

    More like a huge thick line.

    May 13, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  13. hannah

    So did those attacks (and the 9/11 ones, for that matter) happen because of "perceived American weakness"? Is that what Rumsfeld wants to argue—that our country's diplomatic missions were targeted because George Bush's America was perceived as weak?

    As for Obama, the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi are the first two attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in an ostensibly peaceful country during his entire presidency—and they were sparked by that idiot wingnut Islamophobe Terri Jones. The embassy in Afghanistan was targeted by the Taliban last Sept. 13, but that's a country at war.

    If you buy Rumsfeld's nonsense, you can tally the numbers to determine which administration was "perceived weaker."

    May 13, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. Who wants to know?!

    So the investigators found that the decisions that were supposed to be made differently aren't done at Clinton's level, yet Republicans keep wanting to blame her. Yea no apparent alternative motives there! Would you expect anything else from Republicans though? We all know how they feel about facts...they don't exist, only opinions do! Plus the Constitution clearly states that we have many rights, including the right to make up facts! Since they don't exist in the natural environment... USA USA USA! Just like some people will believe the anti-christ is the true christ, Republicans think they are true patriots. The GOP is a sham that uses nationalism as a cover for their corruption. All bad things come to an end.

    May 13, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  15. Mentallect

    Interview Petraeus, Gates, etc. Not just Democrats. Hillary Clinton is the target, not Obama. It is thinly veiled and a waste of time especially since 9/11 was never investigated nor was Iraq, no bid contracts to Haliburton, Blackwater, etc by the GOP.

    May 13, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  16. Jerry

    "Republicans walk fine line when targeting Clinton in Benghazi probe." NO! The Republicans DO NOT walk a fine line. My fellow lying and cover up Democrats do!!! Hillary absconded her sworn responsibilities in order to protect the Obama administration. She was originally my number one presidential candidate.

    However, she has sold out some of her supporters in order to remain in the good graces of Obama. They are both liars and a disgrace to our once great nation.

    Come 2016 I hope my fellow Democrats have a better choice to run as president.

    May 13, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  17. mickinmd

    Three years before the next election and the campaigns and anti-campaigns trump working on things good for the country. We will NEVER have a Democracy again until campaign lengths and campaign contributions are serious restricted. Currently, we have a set of candidates that are predetermined by special interest money. Then the voters get to choose candidates who have been pre-cleared by the special interests.

    May 13, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  18. Fsjunkie

    I don't know what good person would want to be a public servant in our government today and going forward. This is nothing but politics. If there was something to be gained to prevent loss of life in the future, EVERYBODY would be ok with an independent commission looking to make some changes. Most people know that we were some place that nobody really wanted be with Libya, and that every step was designed to minimize our footprint there. I think that we accept risk like this on a regular basis...we're doing it to our armed forces right now as they tighten their belts and restrict training and operations over the budget. You will never find popular support for hanging Hillary Clinton because Al Qaeda killed four people in Libya on the anniversary of 9/11. Sad to say, that's actually progress.

    May 13, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  19. Evangenital

    The GOP is running scared.

    May 13, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  20. Martha in CF

    It is too bad that the Redumblicans don't have this much "compassion" for the 26 people killed in Sandy Hook schools. It is a witch hunt plain and simple and the American people will vote likewise come 2014. The Redumblicans have become the laughing stock of the country–if not the world.............

    May 13, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  21. SERIOUSLY?!?

    SEEK THE TRUTH!! Since President Obama and Former Secretary of State Clinton, either couldn't or wouldn't do their jobs on 9/11/2012, we need to seek out the truth! The American people and especially the men who died, deserve that much! For anyone to just accept what the administration says, after the way they kept trying to avoid the issues during the election, is shameful. This is something that ALL American's should be angry about. The Democrats who are trying to politicize this are shameful. This isn't a political issue at all! This was and is, a matter of protecting Americans over seas.

    May 13, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. srichey321

    Republicans relying on scandal and finger pointing instead of changing outdated policies. What else is new?

    May 13, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  23. @

    Awetmedic – The witness to the event should be the center of the investigation. Not only was he a witness he was ye man in charge after the murder of our ambassador. And no one has said we should have known who was attacking our embassy. They said we should not lie about who we know for a fact was attacking our embassy. And if you or anyone accepts the idea that we should allow these people to receive no emergency assistance when they are being attacked and that is O.K. I hope you or no one in your family is ever put in that position.
    Your assessment of what happened is so off the target you should be embarrassed.

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

    So . . . it's not news that obama and hillary lied.

    No . . . the news story is that Republicans are daring to call attention to their lies.

    CNN is no longer news. It's just left wing propaganda, in the style of North Korea's "news" agencies.

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

    This is not about what's "right and wrong" it's about who's "Right and Left" and scoring points for your team.

    May 13, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 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