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. Jim

    Republicans: We should downsize government and cut spending.
    Next day Republicans: We should hire armed guards in all our schools and increase protection for our embassies.
    Which do you really want?

    May 13, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  2. Floyd from Illinois

    "Hillary Clinton's not a target. President Obama is not a target.'


    "Darrell Issa is a clumsy and obvious liar".

    May 13, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  3. Sen. Issa

    A big shout out to all the commenters for reminding us here in DC just how stupid the American public really is. My re-election is assured.

    May 13, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. ed dugan

    The Republican Party ALWAYS makes the same mistake, time after time. Romney showed it better than anyone since George Bush. They ALWAYS go into a battle of wits half armed!

    May 13, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |

    Does anyone care about finding out the problem on why our men got killed and trying to prevent it the next time? Or do we just want to bash? I guess just bash.

    May 13, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. mastafunk

    Blah Blah Blah

    The REPUBLICANS continue to detract attention away from the Economy and Illegal Wars they created and pushed using fear.

    How about they GO TO WORK, they have the WORST record of Job creation-encouraging legislation, and yet there they sit BLAH BLAH BLAH...

    May 13, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  7. Billy

    I would think when an independent group comes back saying that Hillary Clinton had x role to play in it, that would be the end of it. Or, at the very least, I would think the narrative would shift to how the group wasn't so independent. This is why I can't take the GOP seriously. All they are yelling is, "Why didn't they blame her more?! I wasn't there and have no clue what I'm talking about, but I know she did something!"

    May 13, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  8. Robert C

    For all of you who are supporting Clinton, you must remember her outrage about Abu Ghraib because of the "humiliation" these prisoners endured and she wanted the heads of every department involved. no one died. If you trust her then you are the problem with this country as you are party above country. this was her ship, she was the captain and s therefore ultimately responsible for the inaction and deaths of the Americans. You wanted Rumsfeld's head on a platter for pictures of naked prisoners, but you will forgive her out right lies.

    May 13, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Obama's foreign policy; apologize and appease didn't work and then the campaign slogan about " Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive" prompted the terrorist to show us the war on America wasn't over in their view. To avoid the embarrassment, the administration chose to blame a video that no one had seen. The election was more important to them than the truth.

    May 13, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  10. JackieG

    When do the Republicans who voted to reduce funding for State Department security start accepting part of the blame?

    May 13, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  11. The Right Left

    The obsession of Republicans since 2008 to make Barak Obama a one term President failed on November 6, 2012. Their new obsession: To deny Hilary Clinton the opportunity to become the next President.
    Other than that they don't know anything else about governing.

    May 13, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  12. Jimbo

    Behghazi = 4 dead.

    Current military vet suicide rate from 2 GOP wars = 22 PER DAY.

    This is all just going to blow up in the face of Republicans.

    May 13, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. Tea Party Thomas

    Hillary Clinton can't be president. We don't need another Socialist in the white house. Now is the time for us Conservatives to damage her so badly she would never be elected to any public office.

    Remember Benghazi Remember socialism is wrong for America.

    Conservative values for a Conservative America
    Rand Paul 2016

    May 13, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Brent

    Keep it up GOP, keeping digging, and digging, and digging, bashing Hillary is insurance that she will be the next president. She already said "the buck stops with me". How about some compromise on things that matter? Like coming together on the budget, immigration, and energy independence.

    May 13, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  15. Bob

    I get tired of CNN and the liberals attacking what should have been made known from day one. When they can't attack the facts they attack the fact finders. Look at what they did to Hicks. Demoted to a position he is way over qualified for. That speaks volumes. Clinton and Obama did the bare minimum to deflect blame on themselves. All of them involved out and out lied to the public and Congress. Look at all the people involved who have jumped ship since. Why? To take them out of the lime light and keep them shut up. There is your cover up and that's just the tip. Of course it's political. It called politics. Why is it when the democrats attack the GOP they get a handshake and a pat on the back and when the republicans attack the liberal short comings it's 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. Why did she come out with this statement instead of defending what was found out from these hearings? Is it because it's not defensible?

    May 13, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  16. Fandms

    What a bunch of narrow minded people post here, if really fail to look at the big picture and fail to see the truth you are just plain blind to the truth and the reality of our times. This government has failed us miserably, I am so ashamed to have voted him in to office. You could get away one time maybe two with the I was not aware of it, or just low level employes are at fault, from the Mexico arms fiasco, to the Benghazi coverup and now the IRS illegal abuse of power. How stupid do these people think we are! I believed in Obama when I voted for him, I believed changes were coming, but not this type of changes where we have to second guess everything the tell us and I can't say I will trust them again. Presidents have fallen for less, how could you defend and say that the GOP is playing games? if you think all of these lies, coverups....are okay on the government part you are just plain ignorant and deserve what you get, a for me I will change my affiliation to independent as soon as I can, I will not be part of this scam and I refuse to let them brain wash me with the I didn't know or I wasn't aware of it. SHAME on all of you that think they are just being hunted by the GOP. for political reasons and fail to see the reality and the shameful ways of governing this country.

    May 13, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. Told Ya So

    Well now Mr Obama, it looks like the chickens are coming home to Roost

    May 13, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. Adam

    The fact that Bush was responsible for the war in Iraq is unrelated. The American public and Congress both knew he was going into Iraq and supported it, based off of the information they were given at the time. Sure, the information proved to be false, but now they're finding chemical weapons in Syria... The real issue with Benghazi is that no information was given, before or after the attack, and if it had been, the public and Congress would have demanded that action be taken to save those American lives.

    One was a war, the other a massacre that could've been stopped. Not very similar.

    May 13, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  19. The Truth Hurts

    All politics aside, I have no idea why Hilary Clinton is considerd to be such a stellar candidate. Look at her record rationally – what has she accomplished? Her terms as SecState was pretty much inconspicuous, save Benghazi, her efforts at health care reform failed, she lost to a complete political novice in her party's primaries in 2008... WHY is she even being considered as front runner? Because she's a woman? I see no glowing achievements that she could possibly point to. Quite frankily, standing by her philandering husband so that he would not have to commit political hari-kiri while President seems to be pretty weak sauce, and I could not in good conscience vote for someone who put power politics over her family so blatantly.

    May 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. My_goodness

    Republicans: Noun, Verb, Benghazi!

    BTW, weren't the funds to upgrade embassy security axed by Congress a little while back?????

    May 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  21. OrmondGeorge

    The GOP no longer "walks" they are suffering a further ideological regression from homo erectus and devolving back to the primordial ooze.

    May 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  22. Bob the Janitor

    Libs still want to blame Bush, but he didn't do this...Obama did. That's right, Obama lied and lied and lied. He put the spin in the spin cycle, he is now being exposed for the lowdown, lying, cheating, loser that he really is. Chicago-style politics is finally catching up with him..

    When Nixon lied, nobody died. It's time to expose Obama and Clinton for the LIARS that they are...

    May 13, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Wow...knee deep in conspiracy vomit today, eh Republibabies? Someone should have burped you after you ate your Faux Noise brain puree this morning.

    May 13, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I'm upset at Mr. Cummings and other democrats for not cross examining Mr. Hicks. From what I understood, Mr. Hicks who was Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, was also the second in command behind ambassador Stevens, therefore it was his job to contact the local authorities in charge of security in the region. However, we're YET to hear Mr. Hicks say that while he learned that the embassy was under attack, he tried to contact the local authorities for assistance while he "supposedely" summoned the U.S. lilitary for help because the U.S. military were thousands of miles away. Why didn't Mr. Cummings and other democrats ask Mr. Hicks that while you supposedely summoned the U.S. military for help, WHAT efforts did you make to get assistance from the local authorities there? NO, I believe Mr. Hicks should be the one under scrutiny.

    May 13, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  25. Brewers_Fan7

    Rand Paul was right, Secretary Clinton should have been relieved of her post. Whether or not she actually made the decisions that led up to this whole fiasco is irrelevant. When you're the boss you're responsible for the people who work for you, particularly if they're people you put in place. In the end leadership is as much about the people you put on the bus, and the seats you assign them to (if I can borrow a phrase from Good to Great). This whole incident could easily have happened to another secretary of state, however that's also irrelevant because it didn't. The most damning indictment of Secretary Clinton's ability to lead a nation is her track record in the one and only executive post she's ever held, and that record is extremely flawed.

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