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. ghostriter

    After the previous 2 incidents that were supposed to be "Obama's Watergate" required 3 years of hearings and investigation and turned up exactly zero indictments, House democrats have introduced a bill stating that after the the 2nd of such hearings that comes up empty, the offending party must pay for subsequent hearings out of their own salaries.

    May 13, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. ghostriter

    get it right, you got it all wrong. Simply put, more money was requested and denied by republicans. Chaffetz said as much proudly. Of course, that is not brought up at all. Mostly because this ceased being about finding out what happened the very minute republican candidate Romney made his comments blasting the President for siding against free speech....

    Wait....that would mean even Romney thought this was about the video.....Romney must be in on it!

    May 13, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. ironman59

    The gop is not walking a fine line. They are trying to steamroll the entire process. More to the point they are trying to dampen the popularity of someone likely to run for office in 2016. More to the point it is a stupid political tactic for 1 simple reason. There was absolutely no outrage or inquiry into all of the embassy attacks for the 8 years "W" was in office. Had they done that this might seem reasonable but at this point it is seen for the pure politics that it is.

    May 13, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. FactsRBad

    "She had to have been in the loop some way," he continued. "But, we don't know for sure."

    McCain's quote at the end of this is priceless – we will assert her guilt despite the absence of actual knowledge or proof. FOX news would be proud of this tired tactic.

    May 13, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. carlos

    every single repugnant and conservative in this country are full of cranial feces.....just look at CURLY paul, mc cruz, pathetic rube, the turtle mc c, and that iyiot (rhymes with idiot) woman from NH ....

    May 13, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. Lando

    Hey Issa,

    Where's the outrage on Iraq many deads and cripled...simple question for you...dummy

    May 13, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. seanster5977

    Disgusting liberal democrats making excuses for these losers is sickening. If you ever want to be taken seriously you should rethink defending the indefensible. All the dems had to do was be honest from the get go. But that is not in a liberal dems DNA I guess. All are liars unwilling to be leaders and take responsibility.

    May 13, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  8. Kevin B

    When will the Democrats ever have to "Walk a fine line" on something? The Hypocrisy and Double standards are getting UNBEARABLE.

    May 13, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. LL

    The right has messed themselves up for 2016 already.

    Oh, and BTW, if the right REALLY was ever concerned about the violent murders of US Embassy workers....they seem to be conveniently forgetting the 50 murdered US Embassy workers in separate attacks under the last Republican administration that got ZERO attention by them during two terms and more than one term after they left office.

    Fact is - "Benghazi" though unfortunate, is a very weak partisan play on their behalf..

    And again, if they think this is going to HELP for 2016...they've already lost.

    May 13, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. carlos

    imbecile issa and his goons in the repugnant side of congress have blood in their hands by cutting funding to the State Department and where is the blame for the 4,000 plus deaths of our HEROES in was a repugnant administration and what did congress' repugnants did???? It is about ripe time to start an inquiry into the biggest WMD's lie.

    May 13, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC


    Disgusting liberal democrats making excuses for these losers is sickening. If you ever want to be taken seriously you should rethink defending the indefensible. All the dems had to do was be honest from the get go.
    Democrats were honest...behind closed doors. If the administration decides not to immediately reveal, publicly, all that is known about the incident, then that is their perogative.

    This would be like Democrats callling Bush a liar because he wouldn't reveal the sources of his intel on Iraqi WMDs. And then the Democrats would come out and reveal all that the Bush administration knows.

    May 13, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. BinFL

    @Al – "But had this been a Republican, that person would have been put in chains and paraded for wrong doing and allowing the murder to occur on these Americans. But I guess it's like she said, what does it matter now?"
    Really have to wonder what world people like you live in. If that were the case, Cheney & Bush would be in jail, wouldn't they? But the Dems gave them a pass and this is what they get for doing so. Whatever happened in Benghazi can't come close to the 9/11/01 attack and the debaucle of the Iraq war – no comparison!!

    May 13, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. Cat

    I find it amazing that the FBI released photos hours after the Boston shooting but it has taken 8 months to come up with images of the suspected terrorist in the Benghazi. What did Jay Carney say.. Benghazi is old news? Of course the current administration is so arrogant that they think we the people don't deserve to hear the truth and it is OK to lie to us. Yes, Obama is right that Benghazi was used for political gain… by his administration during the election. Obama promised to get to the bottom of this and Jay Carney summed up the President's view of getting to the bottom this…It's old news. Face it we were all lied to but for some of you that seems to be OK if it is your guy.

    May 13, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. BinFL

    @MM – Amazing responses on here. A diplomat was killed and the admn covers it up, lies to the American people and the media do not want to investigate. This happend right before an election. No one died at Watergate. This is much much worse!
    If the investigation was about how to prevent another attack then it would be warranted, however it is extremely obvious this is just a witch hunt. The attack in Benghazi was not hidden from the American people before the election so where was the cover up? It was even discussed in the Obama-Romney debates so where was the cover up? Romney tried to nail the President on the talking points and he was shown to be a fool as the President called it "terror" when he spoke the next day in the Rose Garden. This is just another tax wasting dog and pony show to try to tarnish the Administration.

    May 13, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. m123

    Thank goodness the SOS and President cannot be held responsible for anything.
    As long as they have willing scapegoats, and an electorate willing to believe anything, all is well.
    So pathetic the man responsible for all this is crying about his innocence and non-involvement.
    Only in govt could such incompetence be allowed.

    May 13, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. Ruby

    From all of this one thing is very evident: the RNC is terrified of Hillary running in 2016.

    May 13, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. RAWoD

    It is hard to believe anything coming out of the mouth of McCain. When he spits stupid (as in "She had to have been in the loop some way," "But, we don't know for sure.") he reminds us as to when he picked the half-term bimbo from Alaska as a running mate.

    May 13, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Caiha

    This all happened when Custer got beat by the natives, because people can't just accept that every now and then we just plain lose.

    May 13, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. DustyOnes

    The whistle blowers are pointing up. Guess look up.

    May 13, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. riccismiles

    I'm starting to wonder when I'll see another GOP president.

    May 13, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. USPatriot

    Man, you all have it wrong, did you even watch the hearings, you guys are all in love with the demigod OBAMA, he can do no wrong, you really need to start to see the real problem, the cover up, CNN is such a hack, when did they fall? When did they stop reporting news, instead of producing it. Everyone is fooled by CNN, you low information voters need to check your sources, and not believe this organization that have produce fabricated stories in the past. I know my words won’t get threw, that’s why I never read CNN anymore. US Americans died, someone has to be responsible, but hey you are all to worried about your own political party who are corrupt but insist they are for the people, say what you want, you only prove your incompetence.

    May 13, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. riccismiles

    I'm starting to wonder WHEN I'll see another GOP President.. Seriously.. America is not sleeping off the hangover from the 80s ME ME ME Reagan moment anymore. People are wide awake and only an IDIOT wouldnt notice that the same men who have an issue with Benghazi are the same ones who voted to restrict funding and who ALL voted with glee to send American kids to war in Iraq. I suggest moving this OUT of the headlines and replace it with ANYTHING that makes the GOP look good to those of us who dont blindly vote for either party without investigating the candidates.

    May 13, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. Joe Clark

    So much for Hilliary Clinton's 2016 Presidential campaign. There is a Benghazi oversight in her closet. It will follow her everywhere she goes.

    May 13, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. getalife

    Way to let issa lie unchallenged wolf. You are a hack.

    Our President destroyed issa's lies today.

    It breaks his heart playing politics to spit on the graves of the American heroes that died freeing human being.

    wolf, it is time for you to retire. Leave. You are a pathetic American.

    May 13, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. JDL

    GOP won't do anything to help fix the economy or put people back to work , but they can provide one scandal after another !

    May 13, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
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