May 12th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
1 year 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. DC Johnny

    @Scott Cisney

    You also have no idea what you're talking about, and you grotesquely invalidate your entire point when you belittle the memory of slain Americans with the notion that "Just four" don't matter. Not to mention that you are giving Bush 3000 fatalities while ignoring that Obama has presided over scores of deaths in those same wars to date.

    The president isn't Superman? The president and his administration have intentionally covered up facets of this tragedy for political gain, and are now in full cover up mode trying to hide their initial cover up. Superman? He's not even a good man.

    This requires more than just a simple independent report. We need politicians under oath, and we need to subpoena as many witnesses as possible, to protect them from internal punishment that some have already claimed against this administration.

    Lastly, I'm sick of these self-anointed, holier-than-thou opinions prefaced with the notion that because you are from another country, you are above the fray when it comes to political bickering. Then, like all similar posts before yours, you spew the left's talking points and demagoguery, with no criticism where it is most definitely due.

    You are sheep. Baaaaaaa, sheep.

    May 13, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. IOIYAR

    DC Johnny

    Try looking up hypocrisy in the dictionary. If you are too blind to see what happened during the Bush years then you are the blind one. Or do you agree with Issa, that 9-11 was just a plane crash.

    May 13, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. rs

    Not even close. The GOP went waaaaay over the line. Look, given the atrocities of the Bush era, the GOP has zero moral standing on this issue, none whatsoever. This is pure unbridled anti-govvernment, anti- Clinton politics. Anyone actually believing otherwise is an utter fool.

    May 13, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. honestmidwest.com

    It is what it is – a clear witch hunt trying to tarnish who they see as their top competitor. Over 60 embassy attacks occurred on others' watch-think the Rep. held this type "inquiry" on those?? Sadly thousands were killed on another's watch, think the Rep. held this type "inquiry" on those? They know they have nothing to show for their own merits-so they resort to trying to tear down the other side. It is just sad and an insult to America, that instead of dealing with real issues at hand right now (which they were hired to do) – the Rep. spend their time doing this.

    May 13, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. rs

    Do you mean,"Kind of like what Obama did"?
    That is right out of Obama's play book!!!
    __________________
    and what GOP proto-candidate was that? The GOP ran the clown car of utter incompetents against him and wound up with a multi-billionaire who hated 47% of the American people. Mr. Obama didn't have to do anything to win, the GOP ensured that!

    May 13, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. DC Johnny

    @annieL –

    There you go, missing the entire point like your liberal brothers and sisters.

    Your precious Secretary of State lied and covered up the events leading up to, during, and after this tragedy. But you, like your news agencies, continue to focus on the attack itself, and how it was uncontrollable. You lack the will, or the intelligence, to focus on the other side of the story – the side where Clinton and Obama willfully misled and continue to mislead the American public in order to secure an election and avoid blame and embarrassment.

    Baaaaaaaa, sheep.

    May 13, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. StarshipTrooper

    Here's a prediction. The repubs will back off Hillary once they have damaged her enough so that she will run for president. THEY will find someone else to scapegoat.

    May 13, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. Chuk

    The so-called chairman, Issa, has no credibility. He has been well-known for playing to his conservative base. Nothing more.

    May 13, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. Robert Camacho

    Hillary Clinton for President 2016.

    The Republicans can't stand for anything anymore, the party of NO will get what they deserve, NO way, No how, No Republincas in 2016 or 2020. WAKE UP!!!

    May 13, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. jokerman

    I was unaware that Mrs. Clinton has thrown her hat into the Presidential ring, unlike that twit Rand Paul. If Rand Paul should win the Republican nomination in 2016, I believe that it will mark the beginning of the end of the Republican party as we know it.

    May 13, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. DC Johnny

    @IOIYAR

    Keep rewriting history all you want. For those of us with the intelligence to remember, we were attacked and an overwhelming percentage of American citizens and, most importantly, members of Congress, wanted retribution. Bush didn't push a button to go to war. He reacted, along with bipartisan and citizen support.

    The Obama administration doesn't even hold a candle to the integrity of the Bush administration, and that's saying a lot, because I at least acknowledge that there was a degree of corruption within GWB's house.

    But to paint Bush as Hitler and Obama as heroic is the utmost example of your beloved "hypocrisy" that has ever existed.

    May 13, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. Big_D

    There is nothing fine about the line the GOP has crossed. They are openly playing politics with a security situation that they were party to the cover story for.

    May 13, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. KBNJ

    Looks like Soros' and the Obama 'leftover' campaign $$$$$ are HARD at work on these blogs! For those with an open mind:
    – As with most scandals, it's about the COVER UP, lies and distortions, not the fact that Al-Qaeda attacked our consulate in Eastern Libya (shocker). When there's an obvious cover up as there is here, the American people need to know WHY. Was it 'just' Obama playing politics with American lives, or was it something larger, like arms running to Syria (A la Iran Contra)?
    – It's also about the fact that help was never sent when common sense tells you it was available, and some reports imply it help was actually told to stand down.
    – It's also about the obvious lack of security in a very dangerous place – Hillary essentially already took responsibility for this, but it is still part of the issue.

    May 13, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Do you want to know how Mr. Hicks was lying outright at the Oversight hearing? Well, during the attack on the consolate, Mr. Hicks testified that while he was on the phone with ambassador Stevens, the ambassador said "we are under attack." However, notice how Mr. Hicks failed to elaborate further regarding his conversation with the Ambassadoe. For example, after the ambassador said "we are under attack," what did Mr. Hicks say to the ambassador. I assumed he would have asked questions such as...are gun shots being fired? Are they firing rockets? To me that part of the conversation which appeared not to have occured in in question, Furthermore, if Mr. Hicks was pressed to get off the phone with the ambassador to get help, then why didn't get another personnel on the phone with the ambassador while he supposedely seeked help? Yo know, someone who would have perhaps tell the ambbassador to get to hell out even if they had been abducted? Fishy testimony full of lies, unanswered questions and alot of holes!

    May 13, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. LiberalJoePlumber

    Maybe she can "bump her head" again and come back when everything has cooled down. Hilary 2016!

    May 13, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. Laughable!

    GOP walks a fine line? – Are you kidding me? Hillary and this Administration threw every American under the bus on Benghazi, and this shameful behaviour needs to be investigated to the fullest degree. I wouldn't work for this Administration in a foreign country simply because they consider their ideals more important than human lives.

    May 13, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. PeterD

    I can't believe this article. It works really hard to blame Republicans and to make it look like Obama, Clinton and the Dems are in a catch 22. I wish CNN would be more honest in it's reporting.

    May 13, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. Roger

    You have to walk a fine line when targeting Hillary Clinton. The media protect Clinton the way the a certain party in 1930's Germany protected Hitler.

    May 13, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. loveanddarkness

    Most of the people at that particular consulate were not State department employees. They were CIA.

    So how's that Hillary's fault again?

    May 13, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. Roger

    You have to walk a fine line when targeting Hillary Clinton. The media protects Clinton the way the a certain party in 1930's Germany protected a certain up and coming national leader.

    May 13, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    @DC Johnny – Keep rewriting history all you want. For those of us with the intelligence to remember....
    The Obama administration doesn't even hold a candle to the integrity of the Bush administration,
    ------------------------
    Not sure where you were during 2000-2008, but both of your above comments show the total hypocrisy of the right. As a conservative (not a Repug) the Bush administration, the worst Presidency in history (and yes, I remember perfectly well) DESTROYED this once great nation, all in the name of $$$. That was continued over the last 4 yrs by the Obstructionist Party in Congress. There is no denying that – I remember. The Obama administration has tried to correct the financial disaster it was left with, yet the GOP continues to try to "blame" them for the result of their failed trickle down policies.
    Now you have testimony from one guy – with (no doubt) an axe to grind over Benghazi – and the GOP are fawning all over it as yet another chance to damage Hilary for 2016.
    Talk about sheeplee... Baaaaaa Try getting you info from some other source than Fux news.

    May 13, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey CNN, lets take a poll! Following the previous Benghazi hearing, John McCain said the Benghazi issue is bigger than Watergate. Question: Can CNN have a poll asking the following... which is worst than Watergate? The Benghazi case of 9/11/12 or the terrorists attacks of 9/11/01 on our home land, the invasion of Iraq and the missing WMDs, the Afghan war that was abandoned and prolonged for the invasion of Iraq, the 10,000 U.S. deaths in those conflicts and the trillions of dollars consumed?

    May 13, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. asiadude

    2 1/2 months before the attack, the Ambassador of Britain was kidnapped in broad daylight. That event alone should have told anyone with brains that security was a major issue for western diplomats. But in addition, prior to the attack, Amb. Stevens told the state dept. that he didn't trust the Libyian militia who was in charge of his security to do the job and that he needed more security. As it happened, the night of the attack, the militia was no where to be found.

    Somehow we have enough money to fund the Muslim Brotherhood but we don't have enough money to bolster security in a region where there had just been a revolution, and where prior test bombings had already taken place at the consulate. This is failed leadership on display. Shameful and disgraceful.

    May 13, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  24. Johnny 5

    Any of us would be on death row for something of this magnitude. Hillary and Obama will walk away clean and clear with a smug of arrogance on their faces.

    May 13, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. zotquix

    You speak as though the GOP has any sense of propriety, measure or shame. They'll keep screaming "scandal" about anything a non-Republican does until the word loses its meaning.

    May 13, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
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