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. alohajonny

    She is a liar and a cheat, go after her...

    May 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. Pat F

    What a load. If the Obamessaiah was a Republican, the Dems would be holding impeachment hearings already. Obama is no different than Nixon – cover up after cover up, and using IRS to attack political enemies. Sad how paranoia poisons people.

    May 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  3. MM

    Amazing responses on here. A diplomat was killed and the admn covers it up, lies to the American people and the media do not want to investigate. This happend right before an election. No one died at Watergate. This is much much worse!

    May 13, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. BrianMempis

    Ha, ha you leftys are wetting yourself over this one. Too funny.

    May 13, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. wolfpackbob

    Does ANYONE care about the murder of four Americans? If President Obama and Hillary Clinton cared about the truth rather than their political careers, this would have been addressed before the presidential elections last September. Instead, they buried the truth along with the murdered Americans and were confident the media would go along with the sham. They both lied face-to-face with the mother of one of the slain. CNN still carries water for President Obama and Hillary. Hope the other networks finally start doing their jobs as objective journalists rather than PR outlets for the White House. Last week's White House press conference was a surprise. Real questions were finally posed to Jay Carney. He obviously was not ready for hard questions dealing with the long-buried truth.

    May 13, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. Normal In NH

    Trying to get dems/libs to take accountability for a failure is hopeless. Just let them continue their endless fundraising and never ending's really all they're good at. Hopefully the country will elect adults with the ability to actually address this country's issues.

    May 13, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  7. Be Sane

    The only way to stop this idiocy from the Republicans is a sweep of the House and Senate in 2014. Throw the bums out. They do nothing for the betterment of our country. Vote a straight democrat ticket. And again in 2016. Get something done!
    Hillary 2016

    May 13, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. mark scott

    Look away from behind the curtain. Diverting attention away from where it belongs. Face facts people. Politicians are always walking a fine line. The trouble with the troll is she stepped over it.

    May 13, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  9. OldMo

    When everyone is corrupt, compromised and traitorous on some level, it's kind of difficult for anyone to make a stand based on truth and justice. Both parties are run by treasonous puppets so it leaves you wondering what it's going to take to truly change things.

    May 13, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  10. Ken in MD

    Time to stop playing politics and get to work doing what the people sent you to do.

    May 13, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  11. Elena Ferrero

    All I can say is this 'BRING IT ON" and we will make sure that Bush, Cheney and their pals go to the Hague for their CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY! OVER 100,000 killed innocent Iraqi babies, women and men for an false invasion based on lies. NO WMD, NO ties to 911 or OBL. Also over 15K of our wonderful soldiers while also ruining our economic and the worlds. We could also add all the torture and maiming. The MIGHTY USA had gone after other many dictators for lesser crimes. Now Iraq is a destroyed nation and much worse now than before. when Saddam was ruling there were not terrorist there. He had it under his grip. Now Iraq is a welcoming place for them. YEAP Bush, Cheney, Condi, Gonzales, Rommie, Wolfie, Rove and many more the Hague is waiting for all of you the same way old Pinochet was held accountable. And heck he killed not even a 1/10 of that.

    May 13, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  12. Texas

    Republicans would sell their mother to get elected. What they should do is run an inspiring candidate who's brilliant and has great ideas. When they figure out how to do that...they will win.

    May 13, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. Pete in Guilford

    "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.""

    Wouldn't you love to see the GOP internal emails where they came up with this lie? C'mon GOP, you want transparency from Dems? Let's see some from you. Show us your emails on YOUR talking points and prove this isn't politically motivated.

    May 13, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I just wonder why Mr. Issa isn't questioning the fact that the President requested $128 million in 2011 & $331 million dollars in 2012 for Embassy security & House Republicans rejected the request. Sec. Clinton said the cuts will be "detrimental to our national security."

    May 13, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |

    Dear Lord: Please don't let Obama & Hillary get away with 4 counts of murder.

    May 13, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Elena Ferrero

    I wonder if anybody crying out for impeachment now, have a clue about protocol in the state dept or the contributions by the tea party of denying funding for the state dept.'s security. "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged on Wednesday that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010." 10/11/2012

    BTW this took place while War Criminal Bush was killing innocent Iraqi babies, women and men.

    January 22, 2002 US Consulate in Kolkata attacked: 5 killed

    June 14, 2002 US Consulate in Karachi attacked: 12 killed

    February 28, 2003 US Embassy at Islamabad attacked: 2 killed

    June 30, 2004: US Embassy in Tashkent attacked: 2 killed

    December 6, 2004 US Compound at Saudi Arabia attacked: 9 killed

    March 2, 2006 US Consulate in Karachi attacked again: 2 killed

    September 12, 2006 US Embassy in Syria attacked: 4 killed

    March 18 2008 US Embassy in Yemen attacked: 2 killed

    July 9, 2008 US Consulate in Istanbul attacked: 6 killed

    September 17, 2008 US Embassy in Yemen attacked again: 16 killed

    May 13, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. Independent Voter

    I just don't get the vibe that the GOP really cares what happened to those 4 Americans as much as they care about catching Clinton and/or Obama in some kind of political scandal. I care about what really happened at Benghazi as much as my fellow Americans do, however, this REALLY is starting to look like a political witch hunt.

    May 13, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  18. Al

    There are three reasons that Hillary will not get any blame out of this neglectful act that she turned her back on.1 Hillary is a female. 2. Hillary is Democrat. 3. The Democrats will protect her and cover the fact no matter how bad the real facts make her seem.

    But had this been a Republican, that person would have been put in chains and paraded for wrong doing and allowing the murder to occur on these Americans. But I guess it's like she said, what does it matter now?

    May 13, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  19. Aaron

    This is an Obvious Ploy To try and stop Hillary from running/winning in 2016. Sorry Right Wing – If she runs she will walk right into the white house.

    May 13, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. nchurricane

    Funny that eight months is too long for liberals to investigate why four Americans were killed but 5 years is still short enough time to blame Bush for everything. Americans no matter what their political party should demand answers to why the country was lied to by high ranking public officials. Stop standing by party allegiance and stand up for our country.

    May 13, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  21. Dan

    Everybody in politics lies, confuses, and officiates, obama, Clinton, and their associates got caught. They got caught with a stupid, elementary school type story that they doubled down on. Anybody who supports them is an idiot. Imagine, these people are running the country!

    May 13, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  22. Disgusted

    Those who keep trying to invoke Bush's name are the desperate ones. That administration called any attack exactly what it was: terrorism. They called out the terrorist organization. "Bush lied and people died" is so tired. They might have been wrong, but they did NOT lie. The executive division presented their case to the legislative division and THEY approved going into Iraq. I clearly remember the President making a speech giving them two weeks to work with us to prove that they didn't have WMD, and that didn't happen. I also remember Hillary Clinton voting for the move into Iraq, like a decided majority of her colleagues.

    The whistleblower called the mention of a Yout Tube video "embarrassing" adn he is right. A high information citizen could only have to look at the calendar and look at the action around the embassy to know that this was an act of terror by Al Qaeda. Lying about it was political. Leaving those four men to die was poltiical. I'm so hoping that this corrupt house of cards will soon fall. Not because I dislike the President, but because I dislike his lying and the corruption of his administration.

    May 13, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  23. JC

    What's absolutely hilarious is that the wing nuts really truly do believe that they will be able to impeach President Obama based on Benghazi. These people are bat sheet crazy, and yet we have them running our government.

    May 13, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  24. Gabbo

    More liberals rush to Hitlery's defense ! They don't need no stinking facts !

    May 13, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  25. Rich

    If Obama's administration has 12 more Benghazi-level attacks, then they'll match the death toll of attacks under George W Bush. If you're going to ignore GWB's record a few years later, you can surely ignore Hillary's in 2016.

    May 13, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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