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. Bluto

    So what was the great crime committed by the Obama administration in Benghazi?
    What is the great scandal that took place in Benghazi that merits having Obama impeached?

    May 12, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  2. VEW2012

    Johnny McCain would do us all a favor it he retired ...that is so overdue.

    May 12, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. Biden

    The GOP are just a bunch of sore losers who are looking for anything to gain momentum for 2016. The fact that the only thing they know how to do is just run smear campaigns instead of trying to be at least half decent politicians is telling of their corruption. The irony is that they are sub-human, yet don't believe in evolution!!

    May 12, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. DJ

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

    mmmmkay

    May 12, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. pbernasc

    "We don't know for sure, but she must have been in the loop"
    This is a great day .. now I know the GOP will loser big time in 2014 and 2016

    May 12, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. James Ruston

    Can anyone believe that Clinton, if not Obama himself, is not the target of this "investigation?"

    May 12, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. NickD

    This is a political grandstanding play. Nothing more, nothing less. Where is the GOP outrage over all the people who died in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of bungled no bid contracts that went to Dick Chenys friends and confidants, and incompetent bungling of the rumsfeld and bush? They were cheering and cheering as our men were dyiing and being mutilated.

    From Mcarthyism to White Water and now this. The GOP only know how to grandstand and to build strawmen.

    Its disgusting.

    May 12, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  8. erin

    We failed because there is no money to hire enough people to protect the embassies! Government is poo, corporations stole everything, send it to save havens abroad.

    May 12, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. shabba shabba

    The Republican gotcha show continues. Wish they would hold hearings on the WMDs that didn't exist. A lie that has led to thousands of American deaths.

    May 12, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  10. Guest

    Obama/clinton just 2 more crooked politicians. Power corrupts.

    May 12, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  11. Bob Powers

    When is all this partisan bickering going to end? Why is Rep. Issa not being questioned as part the investigation. He and Ryan are both on the same committee which reduced the budget for security at our foreign concerns both for 2011 and 2012. The security personnel had more to do with less money. It almost sounds like an effort to force a failure of embassy security for political reasons itself? As in the previous post about Sec. Clinton being a failure – please state the failures! Where did she fail and how? Standard partisan rhetoric – broad statement without proof!

    May 12, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  12. Palin

    The Repugs just want to make sure that they go on and on about Bengazi so they can bring it up when Clinton announces her presidency....u guys dont have a chance against her anyways....get used to a long democratic win...8 years of Obama and then another 8 years of Clinton !!!

    May 12, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  13. roro

    This is all a political circus designed to keep Clinton out of the next presidential race. They're so scared of her that they'll do anything to besmirch her. Darrel Issa is a pathetic joke.

    May 12, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  14. DavM

    Hillary and Obama failed America and their people in Benghazi ,they should be put in jail

    May 12, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  15. Guy in NC

    Democrats ad the media are ridiculous....this is not a political issue, it's a matter of failure to protect Americans being attacked. Leave it to CNN to blame republicans for being too political even though ALL OF AMERICA was lied to only months before the 2012 election when our inept president was at the core of the biggest scandal since Fast and Furious (which also wasn't reported/investigated). Liberals make me sick

    May 12, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  16. JJ

    You GOP chumps are pathetic. 4,000+ soldiers dead over a president who lied about WMD and not a single hearing. 60+ state department employees dead during the Shrub's watch and not a single hearing. Go sit on a pole, useless hypocrites.

    May 12, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. Lee

    These GOP investigations are nothing more than a beat to death horse when the GOP does not control the White House. They go back to the "Whitewater" hearings or before. Nothing ever comes of them. Give it up guys & gals. Continuing to do this just makes you look all that much more irrelevant when you cannot produce anything along this tact over the past twenty years or more.

    May 12, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. herbie

    While it is a good idea to have investigation into possible failures and fixes I think a diplomat is not the best person on military and security issues at that level it is like a family member wanting to rush into a fire or possible explosive situation to save someone it may be brave but not the most wise move i

    May 12, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. Davidbiz

    I find it interesting that the Republicans are conveniently forgetting a very important part of all this. In 2011, the Congressional Republicans cut the President's request for Embassy security by $128 million and again in 2012 by $331 million...and completely ignored Hillary Clinton's warnings that the cuts would be "detrimental to National Security!" Hmmm..and this ISN'T about trying to destroy the one political candidate who could prevent the Republicans from taking the White House in 2016?!! Really!!?

    May 12, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. Name Uche Agonsi

    Mmh... Such a callous branding of failure & worrisome disrespect for successful political technocrats & solutions-crafting gurus, whose political ratings are positively way beyonds every expectations of accussers' performances. And what are these accusations..... Dereliction of duty based on the dumb ideas of the loosers' party. Several questions need to be asked.....how were these whistle blowers came to the conclusion at the time of the attack that the attackers were Al Qaeda: were they sure the state department was not getting varied opinions from other sources. What exactly was Hillary's crime ......a world class top notcher in diplomacy that achieved over 80 percent performance ratings.......you expected her to declare war against some unknown terrorists in another country based on the text of whistle blowers. When has such move been done by American President with the Congress. She resigned her appointment & her workers disciplined, what else do you want . And why did these whistle blowers testify under the official enquiry first rather than being led in their noses to prejudging them. They still reserve the right to protest any misjudgement. For McCain, he is Al Qaeda crazy......he eats, dreams, breathes Al Qaeda ...everything in his politics is Al Qaeda & War.....what should have happened to US if McCain has been President...........It was President Reagan who a media personnel was accusing of making a mistake once, he turned round to tell the man that before he reached his age he must have made so many mistakes.....Obama Administration policy has decisively & aggressively dealt crushing blows to terrorism, the Administration has achieved a lot of sucesses here, it doesn't mean he would do this one hundred percent, so American should rather applaud him for this than crucify him.

    May 12, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. Frank

    It is a fact the State Department deceived the American public, and the world for that matter.
    Yes, Hillary is the center. She was the Secretary of State at the time.
    You can run but you can not hide.

    May 12, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  22. Doubtful

    It is amazing to me that the more this story is investigated, the more we find that there WAS an attempt to cover up the details of the incident. Even now, however, the new media is refusing to take a hand in doing any significant investigative reporting, but merely whining about the partisan nature of the inquiry. Of COURSE it is partisan.... unless the opposite side brings out any wrong-doing, do you think the current administration would? History tells us that when things go bad, everything is hushed up, and it then becomes the DUTY of the media to bring things to light. FAIL, CNN, FAIL!!!

    May 12, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  23. Southernsuga

    Hillary Clinton was the most honest person in the Obama administration. Republicans need to quit using her a political fodder for the 2016 election. It won't work...IF she runs.

    May 12, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  24. Studypeople

    Pres. George W. Bush was waned while on vacation in Texas.... A month before 9/11. That Al Qaeda was determined to attack the American Soil. Did Pres. George W. Bush do anything about that warning..... NO! I wonder why the Republicans never investigated, charged, or slam Pres. George W. Bush for failing to "Try" to protect the United States?

    May 12, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  25. Hotdog

    The Republicans voted against funding to provide adequate security for the embassies. They really think that they have some thing going with this Benghazi probe but it will back fire on them. I just hope that people will vote to remove these obstructionist from office when the mid term election comes.

    May 12, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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