(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."
Its just a witch hunt by the repubs. Why was not the 9/11 under bush investigated to this extent that Benghazi is, or the 200+ marines killed under Regan? THIS JUST NOTHING BUT TO TRY TO TARNISH CLINTON, THE REPBULICANS ARE AFRIED OF HER RUNNING AND WINNING IN 2016.
Aren't all politicians liars?
We should still trust her to be the next president after lying about the attacks at Bengahazi.
The music did not match the times, the feel of the movie, or anything for that matter. Nothing against JayZ but the soundtrack was horrible for this movie.
And yes I watched it.
Why isn't the news reporting that it was Clinton herself that murdered the Ambassador. She actually started Al-Queda with Bin Laden, who she tried to save.
Bad things happen and as a result, people were disciplined about Benghazy. What is left is a party almost hysterical about keeping the subject up.Why not check instead major things like why we were mislead about weapons of mass destruction, and at a cost of around 4 thousand americans, 100 thousand iraquis and a good chunk of our national deficit and significantly burdened citizens. Would this party be so keen about the then ""talking points"?
I wish Clinton would come and give these ghost hunters what for and show them for what they are just like she did during their last witch hunt. Woman has more smarts in her flatulence than any one of those republicans. Never ceases to amaze me how Bush/Cheney led us into disaster that killed 100s of thousands on a "mistake"and repukes just accept it. Mistakes were made the in Benghazi and Clinton quickly said blame me. 4 people died tragically. Many thousands died in wasted stupid war in Iraq and Iran was freed in process. Think you will ever here Bush or Cheney be as manly about their responsibility as Clinton?
No quite on the level of failure as you are.
The person that should be precluded from holding a high office or any office for that matter, is Rand Paul and his ilk. Who cares what he thinks anyway? He's just trying to win points with his crazy base, doesn't really care about service to the country or doing anything for his State, just wants to ensure his own job, but forgets about jobs for those in his own State. Get lost idiot. How stupid do you think the people are or that we can't see through your agenda.
"She had to have been in the loop some way," he continued. "But, we don't know for sure." from Senator McCain. If this isn't a fishing expedition, I don't know what is. Ambassador Pickering who led the independent investigation DID meet with her and everybody down. It is a lie tthat his commission did not. They DID find that some of her senior officers were guilty of gross dereliction of duty and they WERE dismissed. Heads rolled – and promptly. Pickering served as a legend under both Republican and Democratic administrations and is held in esteem for his mental prowess, thoroughness and accuracy.
Sixty people were killed at embassies in sixteen events while George W. Bush was president and nary a word was said by the Republicans. The hypocrisy is stunning.
Tired of the State Department taking the blame. This was not a Consulate as has been mentioned in too many articles too many times. Consulates issue visas to foreign citizens and provide assistance to Americans living in a country. The work is performed by State Department Consular officers. There were none of them in Benghazi, nor was any of this type of work being done there, because this WAS NOT A STATE DEPARTMENT FACILITY. It was a CIA compound used for whatever the CIA does..... The CIA does not report to the State Department. Never has. Of course the news media can't report that it was only a CIA facility, because they have their marching orders.
Also, for those in the news media that continue to use the term Embassy when talking about Benghazi, please understand that Embassies are in the capitols of countries. The capitol of Libya is Tripoli, where the Embassy was and still is.
No politician is trustworthy. But yeah, GOP is terrified of running against Clinton. Funny thing though, if she is at fault, then they are shooting themselves in the foot for the next election by trying to disqualify her now.
–"Stupid is what stupid does." <-- that should describe the GOP perfectly.
This is getting boring. What more is there to gain here? Republicans should be looking for topics that attract independents to their party, rather than trying to rally their base over this silliness.
So an administration trying to make sense of what was happening a few thousand miles away and trying to get on the same page with their communication about it is a scandal? Right. That's never been done before. Keeping fishing GOP. I still want to know how Bush got off so light after receiving a memo 35 days before 9/11 that was titled "Bin Laden determined to attack in U.S." A few weeks later 2000 Americans were dead. Not to mention the Phoenix FBI agent who two months before 9/11 sent out a memo warning about Muslim extremists at American flight schools. And again, a short time later 2000 Americans were dead.
Republicans and Tea Partiers will turn off voters if this witch hunt continues through 2016. They would be better served if it was an objective investigation without poltical overtones.
CNN grudgingly begins to cover the Benghazi coverup. Hillary "What difference does it make?" More than you can imagine. Kiss the Presidency goodbye.
Treading carefully??? Really??? They have been obsesses with it for 8 months and just can't figure out that there was little anyone could do to stop it. Its a shame they were never this aggressive with the embassy bombings that happened during the last administration.
of course this has everything to do about 2016 Presidential Election and nothing to do about the people that have lost there live's. If it did then why didn't the Republicans Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheny for Iraq????
Was Congress as thorough and persistent in determining what happened to Pat Tillman?\
We are watching the Republicans grasp at any and everything as they become a second rate party. As far as 2016 goes, Clinton has already won, and they know it. The T party is actually destroying the Republican party, and how they don't see it is amazing.
And this is the best the Republicans can come up with... Good luck with that in 2016!
Well said "Biden". Come to think of it, all these things Durbin and others are accusing the GOP of doing, and the very FIRST things her Democrat opponents will hang her for if she decides to run.
The GOP's perpetual strategy of trying to win by smearing the other guy and casting itself as the lesser of two evils is bankrupt. A clear majority of American voters see them for what they are and are disgusted with them.
What the GOP doing reflects a lot of what's wrong with Washington: some folks are just plain stupid. I use to think DC politicians cleverly manipulated the voting public and underneath all the hoopla were really pretty smart. people. Now I wonder. What the GOP is doing is going to come back and bite them in the you-know-what and considering how badly they got crushed in the election, you'd think they would learn. This is not Watergate or Iran-Contra. Those scandals were premeditated, planned, and not-so-carefully executed. Clinton-Libya was a screw-up. Lack of security, lack of response, bungling the message…whatever. Wasn't good but nothing on the order that the GOP is trying to make it. The voter memory is short. No one is going to remember any of this when the 2016 begins for real.
Well said "Biden". Come to think of it, all these things Durbin and others are accusing the GOP of doing, are the very FIRST things her Democrat opponents will hang her for if she decides to run.