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. Rudy NYC


    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!
    Mr. Hicks testified that she was informed. Hicks also testified that an order was given to evacuate the compound. Hicks felt a counter-attack should have been launched, using 4 men, against at least 30 attackers already within the compound. Hicks disagreed with the evacuation order, and apparently still does. He's subordinate and should be dismissed.

    May 13, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Anthony

    Asiadude, as soon as Republicans establish what difference does it make, you can go on investigating. Republicans try to cover up when it is embarrassing for them too. Republicans do not talk about the fact that the Republican-controlled House cut funding on embassy security. The new South Carolina Congressman tried to cover up the fact that he had an affair while he was the state's governor. Of course, Republicans sometimes do more than cover-up. Republicans tried to cover up the fact that they didn't have solid intelligence on weapons of mass destruction on Iraq. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that when Republicans cover up about intelligence, they go on to invade Iraq, and more than 4000 U.S. soldiers died after the cover-up.

    May 13, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Porky Rottenham

    Republicans got Obama elected, then got him re-elected. They're already working on getting Hillary elected. I expect they will succeed.

    May 13, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. AmericaStand

    The Democrats have "crossed" the line by assisting in the cover up, lies, and impedance to all investigations as to why four Americans were left behind and murdered. The fact the country doesn't care about this also shows how our country has crossed from empathy to apathy regarding what is right and wrong.

    May 13, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. The REAL Truth...

    @asiadude – 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.
    First, the US is not funding the MB – that's just another Fux news talking point. Second, if you want to investigate the TRUTH behind Benghazi, let's look at the US House where Obstructionist Party leadership caused some $200+ Million to be removed from the State Dept Security budget. Let's look at who is directly responsible for that, then let's look at the timing of the release of the anti-Islamic video triggering the Benghazi event to coincide with the election.
    Yeah, failed leadership by the GOP and the sheeple want them back ??? Baaaaaaa

    May 13, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. AmericaStand

    Double the national debt in only four years, double the millions of unemployed in four years, convince millions they don't need to work and the other half of the country will provide for them with higher taxes, increase scandals but use liberal media to assist in covering them up. Liberal agenda accomplished!

    May 13, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Ol' Yeller

    @asiadude- "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"
    Hahahahahaha... you either don't know how to read, choose to ignore facts, or you are a flaming partisan hack. Hillary 'signed off personally' on the security cuts because there was NO money allocated to security for the embassiaes because of the refusal of the house (who has control of the house- answer: no one, because the oompa loompa can't control his party). If there is is NO MONEY you have to cut and as the leader you have to 'sign off on it'. Man, you are funny.

    May 13, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. alpg49

    Political rhetoric is becoming like a kaleidoscope. You can see anything you want. You want a cover-up; you have a cover-up. You want a reason to invade another country; you have a reason to invade another country.

    May 13, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  9. Mike

    Wow. Imagine if the GOP put a proportional amount of effort into inquiring why we were not prepared for 3000 people killed in the 9/11/2001 attacks as they have been putting into inquiring about the 4 people killed in the 9/11/2012 attacks

    May 13, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  10. asiadude

    The motives of the Repubs is irrelevent - they are asking the questions that NEED to be asked. If ABC, CNN, NBC,and CBS would have done their jobs then Congress wouldn't have to do it. If Obama and Hillary have nothing to hide, what are they afraid of? The fact is that they have already been caught in 2 lies, Hillary actually reduced security in Benghazi, one of the hotbeds of islamic extremism when Stevens asked for more, and when the British Ambassador was kidnapped in broad daylight just 2 1/2 months before the 9-11 attack. They did absolutely nothing the night of the attack except to tell CIA units to stand down when they were ready to go in and engage the fight. Then afterwards they set up some lame Youtube video story to deflect the public's attention away from their incompetence and failed Middle East policy.

    Hillary and BO got the 2 am call and they failed in their leadership on all accounts. If you're not going to protect a U.S. ambassador in one of the hotbeds of terrorism, who will you protect? Don't tell me they didn't have enough funds - they could at the very least shifted some funds from embassies that didn't need as much security. Disgraceful.

    May 13, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    I don't hear any Republican outrage over the thousands of deaths resulting from the invasion of Iraq's sovereignty resulting from the distortions of WMD "evidence" manipulated by the administration of George W. Bush.

    May 13, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. RocketJL

    I care about why these Americans were left to die by our government, when it was clear we had a chance to save them. There is no amount 'fish crawling' by Obama, Hillary, of the news media that is going to change any of that. Attempting to drag things out so you can say that is old news, is not going to cut it. I still hate Jane Fonda for her North Vietnamese actions, and I'm not talking about her being tired and putting her butt on an anti-aircraft gun seat.

    May 13, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. asiadude

    Somehow we had enough money to give to the Muslim brotherhood, we created money out of thin air to bail out GM - money that had to be borrowed - but we couldn't get money for add'l security into Benghazi, when it was already known that the security situation was deteriorating quickly in the months preceeding the attack.

    More hope and blame by failed leaders. Hell, Hillary didn't even ASK for more money from Congress.

    May 13, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Rembrant

    Yep, the GOP is at it again. Let's blame blame blame while blatantly ignoring the country's problems. Stop blaming, fix the problem so it won't happen again, move forward. GOP is not about fixing problems.
    I hope the American people are smart enough to know what GOP is doing so we can vote em out and start some new parties

    May 13, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. asiadude

    BTW, that was $60 million we gave to the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. I guess there wasn't enough left to provide more security to Amb. Stevens in Benghazi.

    May 13, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. David

    It will be many years before Republicans stop throwing their temper tantrum and accept that America elected a black Democrat as the President of the entire United States. Every history book will include that fact and devote more time to him than most other presidents; buildings, schools, roads, etc will be named for him; and all of this just kills Republicans.

    May 13, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. The GOP is a joke

    The party of obstruction, temper tantrums, and lies is at it again. Need we say more?

    May 13, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. peterfrady

    War is hell for sure... 3 died in Benghazi sad... How many children or other Citizens of These United States this weekend? Are those too because of bad films...?

    Instead of Poor inept leadership that Lie as a matter of Breathing.. Try telling the Truth for Once... All levels of the Federal Administrations ALWAYS LIE!!

    Why Now is it such a Big Deal...? You folks go to college to learn how to Lie, Cheat, Steal and Blame Someone Else...

    May 13, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    I believe Mr Hicks a lot more than I would believe a liar such as Hillary and Bill Clinton!

    May 13, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  20. Junior

    Keep it up GOP. You're only making the country love Hillary even more. Your attacks will only make your far-right base happy and nobody else. If you don't believe me then just keep going. You'll find out soon enough.

    May 13, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. Tom1940

    Hillary Clinton is a player, however B. Obama's White House should be the target of this inquiry. Mr. Tom Donlan, National Security Advisor is strangely silent, according to the fellas at Foxnews Online News Program. (Doug Schoen, Pat Caudell,etc). Normally, in Presidential Scandals, the National Security Adviser is all over the news "telling the administrations side", and spinning the story. If a Select House Committee is named, it will be interesting to see what Mr. Donlan has to say then.

    May 13, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. Brian

    Benghazi is not where the US embassy building is in Libya, the US embassy is in Tripoli. Benghazi is an outpost of the US Embassy. Most people don't make that distinction when it comes to the security issue.

    May 13, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. Mark

    Regardless of political party, there are questions that need answers. I havent seen anyone from the Administration providing anything but excuses. after last weeks revelations from people who were there (99.9% of us were not) the answers are not good and the ones I heard are disturbing. anyone that wants to argue Republican this or Democrat that, can stuff it. Its not about that. It's about 4 dead Americans (an Ambassador no less) and accusations from not only people who are researching this but folks on the ground there that no one helped when help was close by. Not only that, but that helped was told NOT to go! I cannot fathom that if true. I dont care about political parties at all, what I care about is holding those responsible accountable. death isnt a do-over. Some of you, having read your loud mouthed responses to each other should get a grip and quit yapping about some things you know nothing about and providing cover for which ever party you support. I support America..all of it... and the way it looks of last week, Americans allowed other Americans to die when some if not all could have been avoided or diminished.

    May 13, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. Spikemanlou

    We have three years until the next election and the Nopublicans are already running scared, they are rehashing issues that have been closed just so they can tarnish the reputation of their opponent in 2016. Why don't they do their job that they have been blowing off for the past 5 years and fix the economy, oh wait, it appears as though the economy is beginning to rebound no matter what the party of No does to derail what the current administration does to repair it.

    May 13, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. asiadude

    If nothing in Washington was allowed to be political, Washington would cease to exist would it? The Republicans may be asking questions for the wrong reason, but they are asking the RIGHT questions that need to be asked and answered.
    I sense we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

    May 13, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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