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. Anthony

    Asiadude, Democrats can spend only if the Republican-controlled House approves the spending. Democrats can't even borrow money without approval by the Republican-controlled House. Remember the debt ceiling crisis? The government went up to the statutory limit on borrowing and couldn't borrow any more. So, why did the Republican House approve funding that can go to Muslim Brotherhood? The Obama Administration did ask for more money for embassy security. According to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010.

    May 13, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. asiadude

    As soon as I heard Hillary tell the family members of Amb. Stevens to their faces that the Admin would do everything to punish the maker of the Youtube video, I KNEW right then and there it was a COVER UP. Because that's not what a person with the right priorities would say to family members of the deceased TO THEIR FACES. They would have first said that they would be going after the killers!

    May 13, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Rich

    @RocketJL, how sad. Obsessed with Jane Fonda instead of an acquiescent Congress's support of an unnecessary war. Might want to rethink your priorities AND ethical stances. Do you think 3M Vietnamese dead civilians are not a good enough tradeoff? Exactly how many Iraqi or Vietnamese or other lives equal one American life? Shouldn't we respect all life? Good lord...

    May 13, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. asiadude

    I knew the race card would be played sooner or later.

    May 13, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Anthony in California

    September 11, 2001.

    Oh wait.. Republicans do not want to GO THERE.....

    May 13, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. ghostriter

    Haven't we heard this before?

    "Appearing Friday afternoon on Fox News, Michele Bachmann made a striking accusation against the Obama administration, presenting a severe conspiracy surrounding the government’s involvement in the failed Solyndra solar power company.

    “It just stinks on every level. This makes Watergate look like child’s play,” Bachmann declared — referring to the vast criminal network that had been operated out of the Nixon White House and re-election campaign."

    May 13, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Didn't this administration already place blame on Hillary? I believe so.

    May 13, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. ghostriter

    Haven't we heard this before?

    "So last night, Rep. Steve King – the same Steve King who thought people would commit suicide rather than pay higher estate taxes – announced that Fast and Furious was “reminiscent” of Watergate. “President Nixon asserted executive privilege then, the president has mirrored that now.” King said it “implies very strongly, if it doesn’t bring a conclusion to us out here that this information… links inside the White House itself.”

    May 13, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. ghostriter

    Republicans just want Obama to have a Watergate issue so bad....Everything is a comparison to Watergate. Of course, lacking any real evidence of actual wrongdoing, let alone evidence of a cover up leaves their accusations wanting.

    May 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. kamanalono

    Chairman Issa is now denying that the republicans are targeting Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama with their Benghazi-strategem.

    May 13, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. Mike

    For the Dems it is always "political" when the GOP does anything but NEVER the case when they do it.
    What a crock.

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Scooter

    There were somewhere around 50 attacks on US Embassies and Consulates during the Bush years with I think 13 deaths....where was the Rep outrage then? Yemen and Pakistan were attacked twice! Where was Congress and their outrage then? Why not ask for Better security when attacked twice? And before you say those weren't covered up....well what was being covered up this time? I don't understand. Let's move on. Let's try to find the people that did it. Let's try to find ways for better security. I'm just so tired of the 2 party BS.....

    May 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. Mike

    Anthony in California
    September 11, 2001.

    Oh wait.. Republicans do not want to GO THERE.....

    Considering the entire 9-11 terror attack was conceived, planned, and practiced under the Clinton Administration I'd say the GOP is fine with "going there" since it was a complete breakdown in U.S. intel under Slick Willy himself.
    And when given the chance to drop a bomb on a building that absolutely had OBL inside (prior to 9-11) he chose to fail.

    May 13, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. get it right


    Please explain how additional security was over-looked in Benghazi.
    The funding isn't the issue, because it was "assumed" that the State Department was managing Libya properly. No additional funding was requested because we were supposedly Al Quaeda was on the run and Bin Laden was dead... narrative.
    Clinton heeded no warnings about security concerns. Gregory Hicks who voted for Obama and Clinton just went before Congress explaining that he made his concerns known to the state dept. and was made aware that it was a terror attack firsthand from Stevens the night of the attack.

    Please explain the reference to Islam video in terms of precipitating the event on our consulate. Explain how Obama referred to a video on CBS 60 minutes the day after the event, Letterman, and the View. It was posturing.

    You won't address any of these issues because the administration has no answers. Thanks Anthony for your thoughts.

    May 13, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. JustAO

    The GOP is a lost party. They use tactics dating back to McCarthy and Swift Boat era, yet think there platform of insult and alienate every demographic that isn't a religious baby-boomer male caucasian is sound; and wonder why they will continue to lose every national election since Obama in 2008.

    Here's a reality check for you GOP, Obama was simply the beginning of the end for the modern day GOP. Society has moved on and the more crazy and exclusionary your reaction to the changes of our society, the less we care what you are ranting about how your 'freedom, liberty, and patriotism' is being challenged.

    May 13, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Ted Statton

    Why they are investigating the 4 deafs at Bengahzi why don't they investigate Bush and Cheney for the 4600 Iraq war deaths , 53 embassy deaths during their administration. Yes one life is to many but congress didn't give a damn about the 4600 that gave their lives for a war over weapons of mass destruction that was n't ever found . This is not counting
    37,000 that were injured in the 8 year war . So for them to say this isn't politically motivated is bull crap. I hope the American people clean house on the most done nothing Congress in American History this coming election.

    May 13, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. MikeB

    "She [had] to be in the loop someway... but we don't [know] for sure."
    If that's not a line of... well, I don't buy into that sort of statement.
    All the GOP needs to know is that the last few years have driven me into a person very willing to vote independent.

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. Knghtshingrmour

    This is like saying Ariel Castro is being targeted. If government people did something wrong We The People deserve to have them replaced.

    May 13, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Anthony

    Get it right,
    Because there was not enough money? The Obama Administration did ask for more money. If the Administration asked for more money, it means that there was not enough money, proper management or not. The Administration never said that Al Qaeda is dead. Al Qaeda is crippled but not dead. The idea that Obama Administration wants the public to believe that Al Qaeda is dead is a Republican narrative. Obama did not have to wipe out Al Qaeda (if such thing is possible) to win on the terrorism issue. All Obama has to do is to do more than Republicans ever did, and he did so by getting bin Laden.

    Please explain why we went into Iraq when Osama bin Laden was at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Please explain why Obama mentioned the words "act of terror" at least 3 time in two days after the Libya attack. That is not consistent with the Republican narrative that the Obama Administration wanted to deny there was any possibility of terrorism in the Libya attack, is it?

    May 13, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. The REAL Truth...

    @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!
    I'll bite Tom. There appear to be plenty of people that are stupid enough to believe that the Sec. State is up to date on every little detail of what happened. That's what Fux News propaganda relies on. The blind assumption that everything they tell you is true. Blah... sheeple. Try some independent thinking. Fumble out of the gate? Sure. Cover up? No.

    May 13, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. Sivick

    GOP is using the deaths of americans as a tool in their political witch hunt. Rand Paul practically shouted out his intentions on national TV. They might as well said "our goal for the next 4 years is to discredit Hillary Clinton and prevent her from being the next president of the United States." Sound familiar? It's kind of hard to lie about what you are doing when you've already told everyone what you are doing on national TV. It's a shame politics have to go before doing their jobs...

    May 13, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  22. sassysticks53

    GOP and their silly witch hunting again. I don't care if Hillary pulled the trigger herself, I'll still be voting for her in 2016! GOP attemps to blame this on Hillary Clinton ain't gonna work! LOL! GOP – Idiots!

    May 13, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. Xandor Eich

    Obama should send the TSA to every country that harbors and funds terrorism and Al Qeada, to go grab peoples junk over there , that surely will defeat terrorism .

    May 13, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. Ono

    Four people lost lives in Libya and that were preventable. These were OUR Ambassador and embassy personnels. They were representative of the US and if their deaths were so marginalized by politicians who want to close the case, move forward, believe me, our opponents WILL make a note of this and consider our citizens abroad as marginalized as well.

    May 13, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. VoteYes

    Let's draft Chelsea Clinton as the next Ambassador to Libya...after all what diference does it make....

    May 13, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33