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. Steve

    Its super simple, they either knowingly lied, or they spoke to soon. Either way, they’re politicians who we pay to lie to us. Of course they will politicize this and act to be the bleeding heart for the victims and their families in order to hopefully gain an advantage in their next election. But for the love of god, please tell me when either side of the aisle has not taken this approach? At the end of the day – read the comments on here – these things are meant to bring division to our people, as long as we take these hard-line approaches to one another and sell out whole heartedly to whatever party we support and their ideals, they will keep us in chains.

    May 13, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. luke,az

    Republicans have nothing better to do than to perpetuate this issue for political points. They are losing the battle. They should be putting more energy into the gun debate. 3,800 deaths committed by gun violence since Sandy Hook. Republicans are obstructing common sense solutions to this problem. I'm worried more about republicans than I am Al Qaeda.

    May 13, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. steve

    Yep, its the same Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that 15 years ago was fabricating all those lies about Bill Clinton and that intern that, well, ended up to be true...

    May 13, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Malory Archer


    But it is OK for the IRS to target "tea party" organizations that apply for non-profit status.


    They were targeting both sides of the aisle, and it took place long before President Obama's appointee was in place, but don't let the truth stand in the way of your faux noise inspired faux outrage.

    May 13, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Jerry

    If it were a Republican administration in there the Democrats would be all over this just like the republicans now. Democrats are just a big hypocrites as the rest of them in washington..

    May 13, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. asiadude

    To hell with national security and leaving an Ambassador/ Navy Seals behind to fend for themselves, Obama had an election to win. Note that during the attack, Obama didn't know when or if Amb. Stevens had been killed - yet no rescue was ever attempted. In fact, CIA military teams who were ready to go in and engage were told twice to stand down. Not even the boy scouts were sent.

    We also know that in the months before the attacks, Hillary herself signed off personally on reducing the amount of security in Benghazi when Amb. Stevens was requesting MORE security. Shameful. It doesn't take a genius to know that Libya is one of the hot beds of extremism and terrorism in the world, especially right after the revolution.

    May 13, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. Pander Bear

    Beghazi = Whitewater, i.e. an excuse to continually harass a sitting President for political gain. It's politics, period.

    May 13, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Jerry

    The IRS has always the the Gestapo for the government. Today it's just more prevelent...The DEMS can justify it because the right is always wrong....

    May 13, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  9. Malory Archer


    Notice that all the Obama posters here never address the charges at hand ...


    What are the charges exactly, because nobody seems to be able to say what they are except that there is a "coverup" although none of the "evidence" put forth by the inquisition proves anything.

    May 13, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. gregor1971

    Meanwhile, the IRS is targeting conservative groups concerned about the size and role of government. Hmmm. Sounds like something from Hollywood.

    May 13, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. little tin god

    Pelosi lets Bush, Cheney and the rest of the corrupt Bush administration walk after bankrupting the country, killing over 4000 Americans and who knows how many other Afghanis and Iraqis and other actions that border on treason and now the GOP is frothing at the mouth about the admittedly unfortunate death of 4 Americans in Benghazi.

    As for the Obama administration being incompetent, ask yourself what the Bush administration was before, during and after 9/11. In fact, ask yourself how incompetent the Bush administration(s) were during his 8 years in office.

    Did the Obama administration make a mistake about early statements on Benghazi? Without a doubt! Did the Obama administration attempt to cover up something? Definitely not!

    May 13, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. Malory Archer


    If it were a Republican administration in there the Democrats would be all over this just like the republicans now. Democrats are just a big hypocrites as the rest of them in washington..


    Actually, things like this DID happen during the previous rethug administration, and when the dems complained about it the rethugs told them they were "sore losers" who needed to "get over it".

    May 13, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. TomGI

    It's always the same 6 or 8 Republicans whining and moaning about their "outrage" at every opportunity. Same pin heads looking for their sound bite.

    May 13, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Bubba

    Hillary will win in 2016, and 2020, by which time the GOP base will have died of natural causes. The GOP is in trouble, all because they cannot stop pandering to their aging white wealthy owners, who cannot stop their own inevitable demise. The GOP, like their base, is DOA.
    Justice may be slow, but it does eventually arrive.

    May 13, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Tom

    If anyone is STUPID enough to believe that Hillary was not informed of the situation on the ground, I've got a Nigerian Lottery winning tickt to sell them at 50% face value of the prize!

    May 13, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. Ol' Yeller

    Okay asiadude... we are listening, what are the charges?

    May 13, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. Matthew

    Politics as usual.

    We won't have effective representation until we start voting for people outside of BOTH of these corrupt parties. It's well past time to end the grip these two parties have on our political system.

    May 13, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. bloatedgovtforall

    Hiliary was in charge she WAS and IS responsible for all that took place.

    May 13, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. Ordinary Average American

    John McSenator has to go! He and the Republicans are absolutely desperate to get back in the White House and are too stupid to realize that all this "instigating" they take part in just makes them look worse than they already did! Every member of Congress should be tried for treason, starting with McSenator and his buddy, Graham! Disgusting politicians who are destroying our country for political gain!

    May 13, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. Clinker

    Don't mind me. I'm still looking for the WMDs..........People who live in glass houses need to be mindful of what they say and whom they attack. All people make mistakes, and if this administration had not been so gracious, some of the members of the former administration would now be sitting in prison. Mission accomplished!

    May 13, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. asiadude

    If I were a sitting diplomat overseas right now, I'd sure as hell want to know the TRUTH about Benghazi because I would want to know if my Sec. of State, if my CIA, if my State Dept., if my Commander in Chief are going to defend/rescue me if my embassy comes under attack. I want to know if I put my very life on the line in a hotbed of Islamic terrorism like Libya, will I get more security if I request it? Sadly, I think they already have their answer.

    May 13, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  22. Greg

    Senator Kelley Ayotte is the right wing senator who voted for more Newtowns. Unsurprising she would create lies to besmirch Hillary Clinton to damage her 2016 prospects. Cooincidentially, Ayotte is also running in 2016. lets kick her out of the senate then. Paybacks are hell, Kelley.

    May 13, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Willie12345

    Someone has a bit of explaining to do. Time to fess up, Hillary, Darling.

    May 13, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. CJB

    The fact is that the world is more dangerous now having Hillary at the helm with Obama. They are weak on terrorist attacks and Boston is another fine example of that. As in Benghazi, all the signs and warnings were there and what did they do? Apparently nothing. For the safety of this country, we need to get to the bottom of this if we want to live without fear of terrorist attacks. Bush accomplished this. Obama slept while are Americans were being tortured and killed and then he gets up and heads off to a fund raiser in Vegas. It is shameful to have ordered Stand Down while our embassy was being attacked.

    May 13, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Jim in California

    What happened in Benghazi was terrilble. There's no question about it. What we are seeing in Congress now is just as bad. The right wing took one on the chin in November, and now are trying to smear mud on the other side. And they are being led by a guy who claims to be a "maverick". Yeah, if you define the word maverick as someone who crashes THREE planes during his time in the pilot's seat, get's shot down, captured, then breaks under torture. Laterl after being subjected to it, he ENCOURAGES it's practice on others. Real maverick, that one. Yup.

    May 13, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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