(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."
The more information that is uncovered – the more of a watergate scenario this is becoming. They need to put everyone under oath and ask all the questions that were answered already and see how they change. This smells like a cover-up to no end, and it appears to be more about shielding the POTUS lies during the campaign about the narrative that Al-Q was no longer a threat. The most important question to be asked is who ordered our troops to stand down not once..but twice... That in my opinion is equivalent of treason. Regardless of part affiliation the truth should come out and dealt with appropriately.
They should tread lightly because they sure didn't treat President Bush the way they treat President Obama.Just to refresh everyone's memory 60 diplomats died during President Bush's 8 years.
Political and nothing but. This is an attempt to discredit Sec Clinton. Wonder is Issa got as upset and whiney when numerous diplomats were killed under the previous administrations watch. Somehow I doubt it. The repub/TBs have no shame. Hopefully in 2014 they will become more non-relevant.
Sounds like a Republican political witch hunt attempting to wrongfully discredit Ms. Clinton. The Republicans also ignore the fact that there were 54 attacks on US diplocatic missions during the Bush/Cheney Dynasty, resulting in the deaths of 13 Americans. None of these attacks were justified or resolved.
I thank they are trying to target them. They have tried to make the President look bad for five years.
"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," She is not president yet and they are already peening like pups.
Please continue to play politics with this Republicans. You've got the Teatards destroying your party from within and now this. You're the greatest gifts Hillary Clinton could ever ask for!
good thing the GOP were so consistent investigating terror attacks during the Bush years.
The GOP keeps pointing to (lets exaggerate) planks in the eyes of the Dems.
However they have huge logs in their own eyes
WMDs that didn't exists
If you want to talk about lies, coverups and failures
they seem only interested in the "sins" of the other side
Which is why I have no respect for this witch hunt
They have erased that fine line.
People who lived in the glass house of the Hanoi Hilton shouldn't throw stones.
If anyone thinks Republican motivations here are not entirely political, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.
Republicans still grasping to stay relevant.
I am angry at the treatment dealt put to Gregory Hicks and General Ham....and anyothers who dared to stand up, or speak out. Itisnot who we are...we are not Putin in Russia, or are we?
Tread carefully my left cheek. Karl Rove and the Republicans are already running anti-Hillary ads on Benghazi.
They've made it clear this has nothing to do with those brave Americans who died in our service in Libya, and it is 100% about partisan party politics.
Issa, Chaffetz, and Boehner are all leading this witch hunt. They all also voted to slash embassy security budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars. Why are they pretending to care about embassy security now?
I suppose this is better than if they kept harping on Obama being at fault. But guys, didn't you hear? you DID ( in effect,) remove Hillary from her post. What's the matter? Don't have anything else to harp about? While I feel sorry for you(NOT,( that's just the way it is. Pick a new topic to gripe about>
I find it very interesting that the GOP and Tea-Baggers are more mad at Obama and Clinton then they are at the person(s) that did the actual killings! Oh now I remember... Its because BUSH declared war on Iraq (unprovoked) and thats why we were there in the first place. So they blame Obama for being there... Makes a lot of sense... NOT!
McCain (and the GOP IN GENERAL) love to send troops to war. tHEY pushed and pushed for the U.S. to change the government of Lybia,
But when things went wrong, THEY takes no blame for their decisions. They blame everyone else.
Reading what some people are posting in the other threads about Benghazi makes me wonder if there are any Americans left in this country. You liberals obviously did not watch the hearing. It was disgusting. A real embarrassment to our nation. The fact that you idiots still defend this woman after how she lied to the Families of our fallen soldiers to their faces. She lied to protect Obama's phoney war hero status during the election. It's sick and wrong. What is the matter with you people? You get a free phone courtesy of the American tax payers against their will and you are a devoted Ozombie for life. Hillary could have dropped your children in a wood chipper right in front of you and you will still blame it on the GOP.
"Biden" careful use of satire there. Going on a hunch you're expressing yourself, not assimilating. You don't know what you're talking about. She was revered for her performance, both sides of the aisle. Still is. The hill knows what this is all about, both sides of the aisle know. i know it's not the article you guys were drooling over all weekend, getting so ahead of yourself you were already reversing Obamacare on day 1 and all.... just relax. The GOP is going to f this up and out themselves very soon.
Why are you treading lightly? Are you afraid of the democratic machine? I you scare of what the press will criticize you on to your probing this situation? Are you afraid of discovering the hidden full truth? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are no better that a trader is to your country!
Republicans are desperate. They know that they do not have a candidate that could beat her so they must start the slander early to give them any hope of even a close race
Worked for Dubya.
As America moves on, the GOP continues dissolve and become meaningless to the educated voting base. In this fight, when Clinton is backed in the corner, it will be ignorant finger pointing conservatives against a world traveled ivy educated professional. I can't wait for the show.