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. loveanddarkness

    Between its increasingly shameless pandering to the extremely wealthy, and its blind and deaf blundering on social issues, and the internicene war with the tea party factions, the Republicans are dying a slow and ugly death.

    This is their last attempt to save their lives.

    And it will fail.

    May 13, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. Bottom Line

    What this all boils down to is that Republicans Lost the Big election last year and are still fuming boiling mad about President Obama's re-election! Therefore, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that they will try whatever they can to make Democrats, any Democrat, look bad but what they don't realize is that Americans are not being fooled now that we truly know and realize what they are trying to do with Hillary Clinton, a fine stateswoman and exemplary to be presidential candidate.

    May 13, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Mr. Hicks' testimony was more opinions than facts. The order was given to evacuate, but Hicks felt that a counter-attack should have been mounted. (Now what those people were going to do during the 2+ hours for 4 guys to show up, I have no idea and neither does Hicks.) Hicks sounded bitter and insubordinate. He disagreed with orders, and now has made a big crisis over it.

    And, if the administration chooses to initially downplay the severity of the attack publicly, then that is their perogative. I remind everyone of Mitt Romney's remarks on his "47%" video tape, as well as his premature remarks the night of the attack.

    May 13, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. whitepine

    Just what does this prove?. Many people in the Middle East hate us. We're always interfering into their business and killing people thinking this solves the problem. Just what is all this blame doing? Find solutions, implement them and move on. And by the way, how about spending time on solving our the US Post Office who has been bleeding for years and you refuse to help them. What about the debt....investigate the obsolete and wasteful programs and delete them. Create jobs. All your negative actions makes us feel negative about you, your work and our country. Let's do something positive for a change.

    May 13, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Scott Cisney

    When I wrote "Speaking form a great distance", I was being humble enough to admit: (a) I have never been to Libya and (b) I am not a national security expert. As for the assertion that I am from another country, well, it may be partially true, depending on the perspective, I am from Utah! It certainly feels like another country, given the very red-neck political values. But, I believe it is still considered part of the United States.

    May 13, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. rs

    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.
    Well, they are. Abscent any evidence of a lie (from hearings, 25,000 pages of reports, and WH e-mails), there can be no cover-up. As the GOP only believes in conspiracy and not fact, their belief is a cover-up becomes defacto proof of a lie. Get it now.

    The GOP IS delusional.

    May 13, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. tb

    @DC Johney – ALL POLITICIANS LIE....this is not a GOP vs DEM problem, this is a BROKEN Government problem...Wake up and keep your holier then thou opinion to yourself.

    May 13, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. GG

    "What difference at this point does it make?" Those words will haunt Hillary the rest of her career in politics. She's done!

    May 13, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. rs


    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.
    The RIGHT today seems to be in Nazi-mode. If you want to attact the government today the memo must have gone out to use Hitler and Nazi a lot.

    The GOP is just sooooo sick.

    May 13, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. Sam

    This is the most outrageous media event in recent history!!! Who is running the puppet strings??? Totally disgusted with CNN for mocking the memory of those who died with stories about Hilary being blamed because of the possibility of her running in 2016!!?? People are dead....and you have more jokes on your sight than journalism?? I would love to see the story if this were Bush and he was the one trying to cover it up??!! Obama and Hilary Clinton are responsible....but lets be honest – they have tried to cover the na-ked truth up because of his election. It is disgusting and they both should have to come clean before the American honest for a change. I have lost any respect I had for Hilary Clinton over this – just for the way she handled herself in hearing.....she yells does it matter now?? D-amn right it does!! If that was one of my sons who died needlessly over there because no one paid attention to the request for more secuity – I would sue them!!!!!

    May 13, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. Tstranko

    10,000 US deaths in Iraq??? it wasn't close to that.... People and their misinformation plus FYI there's been over double the us soldier deaths in afghanistan under Obama than under Bush but liberals and the media ignore that fact.

    I love how everytime this administration does something wrong then the Libs use "Bush did this..." Here's been gone for over 4 years and this was to be the "open and honest" administration per Obama. I never voted for Bush and was very mad they mislead us so not going to stand by and let this administration do the same without questioning. Quit being "sheep" to your party and hold them accountable!

    May 13, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  12. The truth

    Enough about Benghazi. It's like slavery, it's in the past. Move on. We can't change the past, only learn from it and move forward. The Republicans are riling idiots who are looking for a reason to spread hatred. It is amazing how gullible the American people are. So easily fooled by Republican rhetoric, or maybe they are so miserable they are look for a hate cause to champion.

    May 13, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  13. Mike

    What a joke?? Hilary is covering up and everyone knows it......Obama is covering up and everyone knows it. What a sad day for those who gave up their lives

    May 13, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. An E-mail Change

    CONServatives are more than eager to question "changes" to the e-mails over Benghazi yet there was only one substantive change made by the White House and State Department and it was a word describing the consulate which was changed to "diplomatic post". That's it, yet Republicans will try to spin a hundred yards more in an effort to make the administration and state department look bad. It won't work in the end as the facts come out and they will have to eat crow.

    May 13, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  15. Thomas

    What a joke?? Hilary is covering up and everyone knows it......Obama is covering up and everyone knows it. What a sad day for those who gave up their lives


    Can you say GWBUSHWMD , three times real fast ?

    May 13, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Martoon

    But it is OK for the IRS to target "tea party" organizations that apply for non-profit status. No double-standard there, huh? Benghazi was an opportunity for the administration to rid itself of some baggage - that is why they didn't send help. We are headed for a soviet-style totalitarian regime.

    May 13, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. znod

    The US House/Senate combo is incredibly lowly rated. The Repubs in the House/Senate are the worst of the breed as they are largely at fault when it comes to ineptness in getting "the job" done. They have no credibility because everything they do is purely politically/feather-their-own-nests motivated. Thus, they are spitting in the wind when it comes to perpetrating their silliness when it comes to Benghazi. They are simply wasting time that might be used productively.

    May 13, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. asiadude

    Notice that all the Obama posters here never address the charges at hand ... it's just "Bush did this" and "Political smear".

    That tells me that the evidence that has been presented is compelling and credible. The Admin was incompetent before the attack, during the attack, and then afterwards lied about the true nature of the attack.

    If I can paraphrase Nixon during the Watergate scandal -- "The American people have got to know if their president is a crook!" In this case the American people have got to know if their current POTUS is a leader with character and courage, and if a possible future POTUS is a real leader in a time of crisis. So far, they both are failing the test.

    May 13, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  19. Malory Archer


    What a joke?? Hilary is covering up and everyoneat faux noise, red state and drudge knows it......Obama is covering up and everyoneat faux noise, red state and drudge knows it.



    May 13, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. sgs

    OMIGOSH! If this were George Bush or anyone affiliated with Republicans, the liberals and the liberal media would have hanged them by now – and, rightly so! We lost four Americans because of an incompetent (or an agenda!) administration and now with people who think it doesn't matter! It matters!

    May 13, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. BobZemko

    Translation: WAHHH!!!! Obama won again. WAHHHHH!!!! Hillary gonna win. WAHHHHH !!!!!!!

    May 13, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  22. SuperD

    You people defending Hillary make me sick. Can you not take off the rose colored glass and realize she is nothing special, quite average if you ask me, totally over-rated, was "given" a Senate seat in a state seat, then "given" the Sec or State job, now you want to give her the presidency based on what?

    She is corrupt to the core, has made millions in the public sector somehow, Vince Foster, cattle futures etc. It all reeks folks, and if you want someone like this leading the nation, then you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

    May 13, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. asiadude

    Even if the investigation is politically motivated, the Republicans are asking the RIGHT questions, and gauging by the Administration's very guarded responses, the stench of the whole situation is getting worse with each passing day.

    May 13, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  24. Name willard

    Impeachment out of presdient obama

    May 13, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. aCriticalEye

    The party of No, has got to GO!

    May 13, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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