May 12th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
1 year 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. mcwreiole

    IF "she was not involved" in the security of our embassies than she is derelict in her duties as Secr. of State. This throwing of a few lower-level civil servants under the bus just doesn't cut it when American lives were lost and the leaders are lying.

    May 12, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. alan feinerman

    a right wing witch hunt because they could not win an honest election

    May 12, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. Steve - Texas

    Just another attempt by right wingers to turn an attack into a crazy conspiracy theory... how about change your out of touch positions than trying to attack others...

    May 12, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    The difference is Hilary, If we can't hold someone accountable for your failures, we may have to go through something like this again. Unfortunately, in the modern liberal world, the liberals think no one should be held accountable for anything.

    May 12, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Loathstheright

    When Republicans spend this much time investigating nothing then there is something else in their motives.....
    attack Hillary with a pack of constant lies to derail 2016....yes.
    attack the President on anything at all even though he had nothing to do with it....yes.
    creating jobs for the Americas that are out of work.....NO!
    actually do something positive for America.....NO!

    May 12, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. Liz

    This is a witch hunt. I'd call it a witch hunt if it was Dem's going after a popular republican..course that means there would need to be a popular republican. Still Its a witch hunt where people are making up baseless accusations. The fact McCain even went far enough to make one just because someone else sent some emails that don't link back to her at all is just plain ridiculous. Even if we had more security....people would of still died that day. The government should be concentrating on fixing the problem not pointing fingers and digging deep holes to try and bury someone for political gain. If Rand Paul wins or even comes close to winning the Presidential Bid I may finally go job hunting in the UK. We need real leaders not a bunch of self serving jackals.

    May 12, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. peed in their pants

    These guys peed in their pants when Hillary came to the senate hearing... McCain was falling at her feet and Rand Paul had no idea why he was there in the first place and asked a ridiculous conspiracy theory question... now they know that she gone they are now attacking her... Reminds me of those Hyenas in Lion King !!!

    May 12, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  8. hanrahan

    The difference is Hilary, if we can hold someone(you) accountable for this disaster, we may be able to make improvements and never go through something like this again. Unfortunately, it is not the liberal way to hold someone accountable. There is no blame, responsibility or accountability for anything.

    May 12, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  9. grafixer

    I'm sure the GOP IS treading carefully. They surely would not want anyone to mention the 60+ deaths at embassies during the Bush administration. Not a peep about that. Interesting. If Hillary were not such a threat to them, they would not be having YET ANOTHER hearing about Benghazi. They are so hoping to make a big deal out of this. They are scared. And rightfully so. They have disappointed the voters – time and time again. And now, all they can do is try to trump up something to fight over. Let's see... Have they allowed one bill to pass that would help the economy or jobs? Nope. Nada. Zip. Nothing. That is what they ran on... job creation. Yet they block every effort – because they don't want any successes under Obama. Problem is... the success is happening in spite of them – and the entire country sees it. They are simply ensuring that the GOP doesn't see the inside of the Whitehouse for a very, very long time. Keep it up Republicans! Keep it up! Hillary will whoop you in 2016 – just like Obama did... TWICE!

    May 12, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. don in albuquerque

    Total witch hunt at the tax payers expense. I know..........lets investigate all Issa's car and gun dealings.

    May 12, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. truth hurts but reality bites

    >the former secretary of state wasn't assigned enough blame in an independent probe of the incident.

    Enough blame? She was assigned ANY blame. The ARB report was a cover up of her involvement.

    >His remarks came after week of renewed interest in the Benghazi saga,
    >and fresh charges of politicization from Democrats.

    So the Democrats think it is perfectly fine that 4 Americans that begged for security and had been attacked before not only were denied additional security, but had their security CUT. And then when these people are attacked, nobody is sent to their aid, there is no plan to protect in any way, shape or form. And some that did want to go help were told not to go. Democrats think this is all just fine, not a problem. This gross incompetence that got 4 Americans killed MUST BE INVESTIGATED. Democrats just love to TALK about the buck stopping at the top until that means one of their own is responsible. Then it is a witch hunt and a political attack. The American people see through this Democrat smoke and mirror show.

    >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.

    There was absolutely NOTHING independent about this review board. The Democrats appointing their own people to investigate themselves. The ARB was a total sham and a farce especially since it did not interview Hillary Clinton and other key people.

    >"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.

    Of course she was but this was a major screw up followed by a major screw up followed by a major cover up. And there is no way Hillary Clinton's name could be associated with that so as usual the buck stops somewhere else.

    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."
    ----

    CLINTON was in charge! The dead ambassador reported TO HER. There was FAR MORE to investigate is this fiasco than security decisions. It is clear from this statement by Pickering that this ARB report was a sham and s smoke screen meant to allow Hillary Clinton to escape any responsibility.

    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.
    ---–
    A total joke. Low level scape goats, all of them. And all of them have simply gotten other jobs in the Obama administration. One has even gotten promoted.

    "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."
    -–
    Hillary Clinton WAS THE HEAD of the organization!! Of course her name is going to be mentioned idiot! Four of her employees are DEAD from gross incompetence and negligence. The ambassador was her DIRECT REPORT! She is the one that MUST be interviewed and held accountable.

    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.
    -----
    This is a FACT. Hillary Clinton's spokesperson Nyland stated it in her email. POLITICAL REASONS were the reason those talking points were scrubbed of virtually everything the CIA had provided. All the changes meant to do one thing. Conceal the truth and facts from the American people to not damage Obama in the election.

    May 12, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  12. dratman

    Sheesh. Republicans have spent so much time investigating one Clinton or another, they could do it in their sleep. Have they forgotten 1999, when they made Ken Starr into the most hated person in America? And has it also escaped their minds that after the impeachment Hillary's husband left office with a 60% approval rating?

    Too much repetition from the Republicans. They only know one song.

    May 12, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. Ben Ghazi

    What difference does it make?

    May 12, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  14. tony

    Who re-elected Bush and Cheney after letting 3000 Americans get killed in their own country. After a record spending increase on "defense"

    May 12, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. ronjayaz

    After slandering HIllary now they"re walking a fine line? Who's kidding whom?

    May 12, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. ratherbboating

    What is the White House hiding?

    May 12, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. Ian

    if we are going to talk Benghazi then lets talk about all of Benghazi. All of this could have been prevented if the republicans ok'd the funding Miss Clinton asked them for. So now as usual the GOP is blaming her for their denial of funding and bringing proper security that was obviously needed to Benghazi. Issa is a blow hard and deserves some if not most of the finger pointing for denying the money to properly secure the the people that were there. If the GOP is so patriotic why deny our representatives security?

    May 12, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  18. Harvty

    Interesting headline, CNN. Could you be demonstrate more bias? Had this been a Republican debacle, you and all the other media outlets would have been relentless. Out of curiosity, when exactly did you decide to become the propaganda arm of the Liberal Democrats and stop reporting news as objectively as possible? Shameful.

    May 12, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  19. Jo black

    Say let's spend 200 million tax dollars in "Hilary hearings" instead of shoring up embassy, consulate and state dept. staff security. That way we will be sure to win the 2014 house elections and the presidency in 2016! No one will even notice. True it is a complete waste of time and tax dollars but don't worry. A when we control the government (ha ha ha!) we will pass a bill saying it wasn't! Signed, Republicans for the perpetual campaigning committee.

    May 12, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  20. observer99

    Four died in Benghazi – four too many!

    BUT that pales compared to tens of thousands killed under Bush-Cheney ! Bush IGNORED warning from CIA that "Bin L:aden is Determined to strike US " five weeks before 9/11!

    Bush-Cheney then lied about weapons of mass destruction. Their WRONG wars are costing trillions we're still paying for,

    There's a Niagara Falls of blood pouring over hands of all who enabled Bush, and the CONESRVATIVE Supreme Court!

    May 12, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  21. Ruby

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

    To put that in plain language; It isn't true, but we sure want it to be true.

    May 12, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  22. blue max

    instead of beefing up security at embassies, the gop is more concerned with pointing fingers and blaming others. they cant stand the fact that bush jr lost three thousand lives to terrorists and obama only lost a dozen. obama has kept us safer than bush jr. period.

    May 12, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  23. Kathy Bell

    Wish they'd give 1/100th the same scrutiny of the thousands lost and injures because of inadequate armor, unreinforced humvees, etc. They don't care. Smear Hillary is the name of this game.

    May 12, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  24. Michael

    They are targeting her because she's a strong candidate for president and they don't have one,

    May 12, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  25. chris wiseowl

    This investigation from the people who brought us two wars which we lost, were responsible for the deaths of 10's of thousands of people, and sent this country's debt into the trillions of dollars? Seriously.
    And Paul Rand, the man who can't spell, writes like a 6th grade graduate, and who could not find his ass with both hands?
    This from the Birther Party, the people directly responsible for this nations entire debt? The people who elected a president who took us from the black into the red, then had the Supreme Court step in and "select" a president based on "hanging chad"?
    It's a good thing I'm not in charge here because there would be some people still hanging from a tree.

    May 12, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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