January 17th, 2014
09:25 AM ET
9 years ago

Adviser defends Clinton amid Benghazi criticism

(CNN) - A top adviser and longtime confidant to Hillary Clinton is defending the former Secretary of State against renewed attacks from Republicans over her leadership during the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Philippe Reines said on CNN's "New Day" on Friday that Clinton will stay out of the Benghazi debate as long as it has political undertones.
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"It's very, even sitting here, very difficult to shift to talking about people losing their lives and the politics of 2016," Reines said. "For as much as people want to make the two the same and to use one in that context, we don't see it that way."

"I know that sounds canned," he continued. "But we just don't, and we're not going to help those who want to."

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a new report endorsed by most members this week saying the attack, which killed four Americans, was "likely preventable," and it partly blamed the State Department for security lapses.

Democrats have claimed that Republicans are using the tragedy to undercut Clinton, who is viewed as a formidable potential presidential candidate in 2016.

But Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham used the report to pressure the Obama administration to take action and hold people accountable, including Clinton, for security shortcomings.

GOP turns new fire on Clinton after Benghazi report

"She has a lot of accomplishments. She's a very accomplished woman. But, under her leadership, the consulate became a death trap," Graham, who doesn't sit on the Intelligence panel, told CNN.

McCain said that "the American people hold all of us accountable who are in responsibility. She should be held accountable."

State Department won't fire employees over Benghazi

Asked if he agrees with the Senate's finding that the attack was "likely preventable," Reines said: "I don't know what that means."

He raised other Benghazi reports, including an independent analysis ordered by the State Department and led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

State Department upheaval follows Benghazi report

"They didn't pull any punches," Reines added. "They came up with 29 recommendations of things that should be done differently. Secretary Clinton, at the time, accepted all 29 immediately and pledged to not leave office until all 29 were on their way to being implemented."

Reines reiterated it's more productive to figure out what happened and how to prevent it again. "Not to continue to harp on the political benefits of looking at what was said by who at what time."

Clinton insiders say the former Secretary of State will address Benghazi in her upcoming book. Asked how much she'll delve into the issue, Reines said "you don't have to wait for the book" to find out.

"Secretary Clinton has appeared many times in the last, I guess, 14, 15 months, including seven hours in front of both sides of Congress to answer every single question that they've had," he said. "So in terms of what she did, how she did it, she's been very vocal about that. She is proud of what she has done to - to handle and to improve and to try to prevent that."

- CNN's Elise Labott, Matt Smith and Paul Courson contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2016 • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    tom l

    "And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people."
    -President Obama on 9/12

    Justice? Where?


    Give it time. After all, it took nearly 10 years and a new President to bring OBL to justice. Given the timeframe for that operation, Hillary has until May 2022 to bring the Benghazi culprits to justice – provided they haven't already been dealt with before President Obama leaves office on January 20, 2016.

    January 17, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    ...provided they haven't already been dealt with before President Obama leaves office on January 20, 2017.

    Time for more coffee!

    January 17, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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