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. Craig

    GOP has nothing else in their wheelhouse. Blame and attack, but never actually do anything to help anyone.

    May 12, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. Karl Marx

    I guess the Republicans won't be happy until the Islamists and Al Queda know all of our internal security and communications. Do we REALLY want to take defense advice from an Irish guy who got shot down?

    May 12, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  3. shawn

    Repubs know the propaganda method well! Keep saying it over and over until my dad (the dumb public) believe their truth...not "the" truth. The media keeps reporting and the masses keep excepting it.

    May 12, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  4. ARTraveler

    Where were these heroic Republicans House members who are so insensed now when attacks were occurring during the George W Bush administration and 11 (count them) people died. This is so political or there wouldn't be six (6) committees each working to be the loudest and most partisan. Or are Republicans so dumb that it takes six of them to do what a normal person could do?? When are they going to look at which Congress critter (Isas) worked to cut the State Department security funding?

    May 12, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  5. nintex

    Bull corn it's not political. Republicans are shaking in their shoes at the thought of running against Hillary Clinton, and they should be!

    May 12, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  6. Wretched Refuse

    McCarthyism Never Dies

    May 12, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  7. Darnell

    She's proven herself incompetent!

    May 12, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. Chris24

    Weapons of mass destructions sound familiar? Rember that one, mr. McCain?

    May 12, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. ludvig

    Repuglican cry crocodile tears for death of federal employee. Old Mitt said the first thing he'd do to balance the budget was to go after federal employees pay and benefits. They are a total bunch of hypocrites in my book.

    May 12, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  10. GrueneJim

    The facts are really not that mysterious. This was a case of political ambition overtaking sound judgement. On September 11, 2012, the Ambassador to Libya and his personnel came under attack by a large group of heavily armed men. The Ambassador made a telephone call for help but his colleagues at the State Department were unable or unwilling to dispatch the military aide needed to survive the attack. The attack lasted seven hours before all four were killed. The White House, the State Department and the CIA knew the attack had absolutely nothing to do with a video. Once the Administration knew the Ambassador was dead, they knew it would be politically disastrous to tell the world what had truly happened. They, Obama and Clinton, were focused on the election and decided to cover up their failure to render aid to four Americans serving our Nation.

    May 12, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. SecrtSqurll

    Why is it that Republicans can't face the facts. The Independent review board dealt with all of this, and since it did not say what Republicans wanted politically, they now want to challenge it. That in itself is political, and the reason America does not like, nor trust them. As usia, they think saying it over and over, makes it true. FAIL.

    May 12, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  12. manhandler1

    I think we should hold Issa responsible for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in his district. That idiotic stuff cuts both ways.

    May 12, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  13. a slozomby

    ""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.""

    did he just call hillary a witch?

    May 12, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  14. The witch is clinton

    What fine line? Americans are ignoring the deaths of the 4 Americans in Benghazi simply because the GOP has turned it in to an obvious attempt to blame Clinton or POTUS. Even the freaking blind can see that. So lets stop pretending it is anything else. Americans kids die everyday from getting shot with guns. Don't see GOP doing anything to stop it. On the contrary they are doing everything they can do encourage it. Guns in schools. Guns in colleges. Guns in the park. Even guns in your childrens room. Now its gun for free.

    May 12, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  15. bwv191

    We all MUST REMEMBER the fact that ALL the Republican members of Congressman Issa committee voted

    May 12, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  16. cris

    No, not for political gain. Republican Darrell Issa seemed to not notice that US Embassies were attacked 13 times when Republican Bush was president.

    May 12, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  17. blf83

    The GOP has already made this non-issue their centerpiece only to make some of them look even more irrelevant.

    May 12, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. Horace

    it was so plain and simple a cover-up – with the election 2 mos away , did the the WHITE HOUSE want anything to contribute to a loss in Nov ??? not likely

    May 12, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  19. tepeters

    This is all political and it is a charade. Comparing it to Watergate is an absurdity. The Watergate Committee was investigating a real crime – obstruction of justice. What is the crime here-bureaucratic bungling; wrong judgments- being political. Even if one believes the worst there is no crime here. Perhaps in an election year politics were involved but despite loose charges let us not forget much to Romney's chagrin-Obama was calling it an act of terror the very next day . And rightly or wrongly being political is not a crime, if it was, Darryl Issa and these hearings would be indictable. The fact that they are still haranguing about talking points is proof that this is just political theater. The various iterations of the talking points eliminated specific references to responsibility but in summary the same was said between the first and the last. Even the first iteration referenced the possibility of spontaneous demonstration but that radical elements were involved that the talking points may change as more is learned. These hearings are trying to turn the awful tragedy into an inference of crime. The Mullen/Pickering investigation pulled no punches in what needs to be reformed. Continuance of these hearings is waste of legislative time and money and does a disservice to those killed by making their deaths a political game.

    May 12, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  20. RL

    Repugs spend too much time with witch hunts and not enough time trying to repair the damage thay have caused this country.

    May 12, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  21. bwv191

    We all MUST REMEMBER that Congressman Issa and the Republican members of this committee VOTED and successfully because of their vote REDUCED the funding to the State Department for Security. They are also guilty for any destruction and deaths that occurred because of their vote to reduce the State Department Security funding..

    Why doesn't anybody talk about the many mdeaths of diplomatic personnel that happened during the Bush administration? Congressman Issa is conducting a political witch hunt.

    May 12, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  22. jpmichigan

    It would be for her gain, for Hillary to come forward with the truth!

    May 12, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Pete

    @Biden,and your darlings in Reagan,Bushs were prizes,you've got to be kidding!!Hillary,Pres.Obama are angels next to those two characters and be honest most of you against Hillary are either republicans or independents that are just republicans in disguise and are disgusted with your own party but most won't admit it will yah!!

    May 12, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. John

    All this Is an Republican Witch hunt, They didn't worry about It when President BUSH flat out Lie about WMD In Iraq So they could send troop there. And there was over 2500 America die their and It lasted over Ten Years. What happen In Libya lasted only about six hour on two different attack. Yes they may have been mistake their ,but someone had to make fast decision. The Republican had over Ten years to do something about Iraq Lies ,and they till want to keep American there.

    May 12, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  25. You heard it worst on CNN.

    Clinton needs to go to jail. Obama needs to be impeached and deported back to Kenya.

    May 12, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
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