Tag Archives: Benghazi

‘No end in sight’ to Republicans’ Clinton investigation

Republicans signaled they’re not done with election-year investigations of Hillary Clinton and whether she lied to Congress, even after a House committee signed off on its report into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The 800-page report by the GOP-led Benghazi Committee found no wrongdoing by the former secretary of state, but the two-year inquiry had revealed that she used a private email server for government business, triggering a yearlong FBI investigation that continues to shadow the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

FBI Director James Comey said this week there weren’t grounds to prosecute Clinton but that she and her aides had been “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information.

The committee’s 7-4 vote Friday was split along party lines, reflecting partisanship that emerged even before the panel’s creation in May 2014 and only escalated since then. Democrats have submitted their own report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

The vote is unlikely to be the final word in the inquiry that has lasted more than two years and cost $7 million. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said lawmakers may seek a federal investigation into whether Clinton lied to the committee in testimony last year.

“If a witness said something to a committee of Congress and/or under oath that’s not consistent with the truth, our committee has an obligation” to report that to the FBI, Gowdy told reporters.

Asked if he was referring to Clinton, Gowdy said, “She’s one of 100 witnesses.”

Under oath, Clinton testified last October that she never sent or received emails marked as classified when she served as secretary of state. She also has said she only used one mobile device for emails and turned over all of her work-related emails to the State Department. Comey said she had multiple devices and that investigators found thousands of work-related emails that had not been turned over.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he would refer Clinton’s Oct. 22 testimony to the FBI to investigate whether she lied to Congress.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on both the Benghazi and Oversight panels, said an FBI referral was “unwarranted,” since Comey said only three emails out of more than 30,000 sent or received by Clinton contained classified markings.

The State Department said the markings on the emails were placed in error and “were no longer necessary or appropriate.”

Cummings and other Democrats criticized the decision by Republicans on the Benghazi panel to conduct an interview next week with a senior Pentagon official who criticized the GOP-led panel for making costly and unnecessary requests. The interview, coming after the report, is unnecessary and excessive, Democrats said.

“There is no end in sight for this partisan Benghazi Committee,” Cummings said. “The Republicans are addicted to Benghazi.”

Separately, the State Department is reopening its internal investigation of possible mishandling of classified information by Clinton and top aides. The internal review was suspended in April to avoid interfering with the FBI inquiry.

Pressed by Chaffetz on whether Clinton lied, Comey said during a hearing that he had not reviewed Clinton’s testimony because it had not been referred to him by Congress. Chaffetz assured Comey he would soon get a referral.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed the latest GOP move as purely political.

“So let’s get this straight: This is going to be an investigation of the decision that is an investigation of the emails that was part of the investigation of Benghazi,” she told reporters. “So we had an investigation of the investigation of the investigation. How long can this go on?”

Comey said his team found no evidence that Clinton lied under oath to the FBI or broke the law by discussing classified information in an unclassified setting.

Under an onslaught of Republican criticism, Comey vigorously defended the government’s decision and rejected GOP accusations that the presidential candidate was given special treatment. To criminally charge Clinton based on the facts his agency’s yearlong probe had found would have been unwarranted and mere “celebrity-hunting,” Comey said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have asked Comey to release all unclassified findings of the FBI’s yearlong investigation. Ryan also has asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to bar Clinton from receiving classified briefings for the rest of the campaign.

A group of Republicans senators has introduced legislation to strip Clinton of her security clearance.

News Guide: What Benghazi means in US politics

To congressional Republicans, “Benghazi” is shorthand for incompetence and cover-up. Democrats hear it as the hollow sound of pointless investigations.

It is, in fact, a Mediterranean port city in Libya that was the site of an attack on an American diplomatic compound on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. That’s nearly all that U.S. politicians can agree on about Benghazi.

It’s been a political rallying cry since just weeks before President Barack Obama’s re-election in November 2012. With the launch of a new House investigation, Benghazi is shaping up as a byword of this fall’s midterm election and the presidential race in 2016, especially if former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the ballot.

A guide to the controversy:

SETTING THE SCENE

The 2011 revolt that deposed and killed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with the help of NATO warships and planes, began in Benghazi. A year later, the city of 1 million remained chaotic, in the grip of heavily armed militias and Islamist militants, some with links to al-Qaida.

The temporary U.S. diplomatic mission, created to build ties and encourage stability and democracy, was struck by homemade bombs twice in the spring of 2012. British diplomats, the Red Cross and other Westerners were targeted that spring and summer.

Stevens, based in the capital city of Tripoli, chose to visit Benghazi on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when U.S. embassies around the world were on alert for terrorism.

In Egypt that day, a different sort of trouble struck, trouble that would spread to other Mideast cities over several days: Protesters angry about an anti-Muslim video made in America stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, clambering over the walls and setting flags on fire.

Hours later, the assault in Benghazi began.

A FIERY ASSAULT AND FOUR DEATHS

The Benghazi attack came in three waves, spread over eight hours at two locations.

According to accounts from congressional investigators and the State Department’s Accountability Review Board:

Around 9:40 p.m., a few attackers scaled the wall of the diplomatic post and opened the front gate, allowing dozens of armed men in. Local Libyan security guards fled. A U.S. security officer shepherded Stevens and Sean Smith, a State Department communications specialist, into a fortified “safe room” in the main building.

Attackers set the building and its furniture afire with diesel fuel. Stevens and Smith were overcome by blinding, choking smoke that prevented security officers from reaching them. Libyan civilians found Stevens in the wreckage hours later and took him to a hospital, where he, like Smith, died of smoke inhalation.

Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.

A security team from the CIA annex about a mile away arrived to help about 25 minutes into the attack, armed only with rifles and handguns. The U.S. personnel fled with Smith’s body back to the annex in armored vehicles.

Hours after the first attack ended, the annex was twice targeted by early morning mortar fire. The second round killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two CIA security contractors who were defending the annex from the rooftop.

A team of six security officials summoned from Tripoli and a Libyan military unit helped evacuate the remaining U.S. personnel on the site to the airport and out of Benghazi.

THE FALLOUT BACK HOME

Word hit Washington in the final weeks of the presidential race. Over the next several days, the Benghazi news blended with images of angry anti-American demonstrations and flag-burnings spreading across the Middle East over the offensive video.

Political reaction to the Benghazi attack quickly formed along partisan lines that hold fast to this day.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and others said Obama had emboldened Islamic extremists by being weak against terrorism. But the public still credited Obama with the successful strike against al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden a few months earlier in Pakistan.

The accusation that took hold was a Republican charge that the White House intentionally misled voters by portraying the Benghazi assault as one of the many protests over the video, instead of a calculated terrorist attack under his watch.

Obama accused the Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy. He insists that the narrative about the video protests was the best information available at the time.

After 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents and 50 separate briefings over the past year and a half, the arguments are the same.

WHO IS TO BLAME FOR LEAVING THE DIPLOMATIC POST SO VULNERABLE?

Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed: The State Department under Clinton kept open the Benghazi mission, which employed a few State employees and more than two dozen CIA workers, with little protection in the midst of well-known dangers.

The attack probably could have been prevented if the department had heeded intelligence warnings about the deteriorating situation in eastern Libya, a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee said.

Britain closed its Benghazi mission in June 2012, after an attack on the British ambassador’s convoy injured two security guards.

Stevens’ requests for more security, made clear in cables to State Department headquarters that July and August, went unheeded, according to the Senate report, as did those made by his predecessor earlier that year.

But Stevens also twice declined the U.S. military’s offer of a special operations team to bolster security and otherwise help his staff.

The month after the fatal assault, Clinton declared that she had been responsible for the safety of those serving in Benghazi, without acknowledging any specific mistakes on her part. Obama said the blame ultimately rested on his shoulders as president.

The administration continued to distance both of them, however, saying neither Clinton nor Obama was aware of the requests for better protection because security decisions were handled at lower levels.

Four senior State Department officials were put on paid leave after the independent accountability board said that security at the Benghazi mission that night was “grossly inadequate.” After a review, the department reassigned three officials to positions of lesser responsibility; one resigned.

Some Republicans complained that no one was fired. Critics also questioned why the board didn’t interview Clinton during its investigation.

Democrats tried to shift some blame to GOP lawmakers, complaining that they had cut the administration’s budget request for diplomatic security in 2012.

WHY DIDN’T THE MILITARY COME TO THE RESCUE?

No military resources were in position to counter the surprise attack, the bipartisan Senate review found.

The military sent surveillance drones that relayed information to the security officers on the ground. It began moving Marines and special forces toward Libya, but the surviving American personnel were evacuated before they could arrive. Two Defense Department personnel arrived from Tripoli to help transport the Americans to the Benghazi airport.

The Senate panel rejected claims that the military had been ordered to “stand down” as the tragedy unfolded.

That persistent allegation has divided Republican lawmakers.

Some continue to pursue the theory that an order from on high blocked possible military action, such as rushing more personnel from Tripoli or scrambling fighter jets from Italy. Other Republicans, including members of the House Armed Services Committee, have accepted assurances from the Pentagon that nothing more could be done in time.

The bipartisan committee did fault the military, however, for failing to anticipate the possibility of such an emergency in Benghazi and not having a response plan ready.

DID OBAMA INTENTIONALLY MISLEAD AMERICANS?

Obama’s opponents are focused on the “talking points,” a memo prepared for lawmakers and for then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to help her get ready for appearances on the Sunday news shows to discuss the attack less than a week after it occurred.

That memo is offered as evidence of a possible White House cover-up. It offers something that’s golden to investigators _ a paper trail.

Last year, the administration reluctantly released 100 pages of emails documenting the administration’s editing of the talking points, first composed by the CIA. The final version omitted references to possible al-Qaida influences in the attack and retained the theory that it grew out of a street protest.

On television, Rice described the attack as a “horrific incident where some mob was hijacked, ultimately, by a handful of extremists.” Since then, numerous investigations have concluded there were no protesters outside the Benghazi compound before the armed assault.

Republicans argue that the administration already knew that. The White House says Rice was giving the best information available from intelligence agencies at that time.

Two months after her TV appearances, the controversy ended Rice’s chance to follow Clinton as secretary of state. Obama instead named her his national security adviser.

Just this April, another email showing the White House’s efforts at political damage control surfaced among documents released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Republicans charged that the administration had violated an earlier congressional subpoena by holding back that email by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. White House press secretary Jay Carney contended that the email, outlining how Rice should answer questions in her TV appearances, focused on the overall Mideast protests, not Benghazi.

The email says one of Rice’s goals is “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” and also includes the assertion that the Benghazi assault apparently grew out of a street demonstration.

“WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?”

As the presumed front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Clinton is the prime political target of the Benghazi probes.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chosen to lead a new House select committee on Benghazi, acknowledges that its work may continue into the presidential campaign season. Gowdy says he wants the investigation to be exhaustive and fair. The House Democrats’ leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, called the committee “a political stunt” but said Democrats would participate to bring balance.

If it achieves nothing else, the Benghazi investigation will cloud Clinton’s record and force her to watch every word. Critics already have latched onto her what-difference-does-it-make moment at a Senate hearing to portray her as indifferent to the truth.

Here’s what she said, under questioning from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., about why the State Department didn’t quickly call the evacuees and ask whether there had been protesters outside the compound before repeating that story on the Sunday talk shows:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton said with evident exasperation. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and prevent it from ever happening again, senator.”

In a chapter of her coming memoir obtained by Politico, Clinton writes that the meaning of her words has been twisted by those waging “a political slugfest.”

House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans aren’t playing politics. “The American people have not been told the truth about Benghazi,” he said, “and we’re committed to getting it.”

AN UNFINISHED STORY

No one has been arrested for the Benghazi attack.

The administration has named two militant groups that officials believe were among the attackers. One is led by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Sufian bin Qumu, who was released from the U.S. military prison in Cuba in 2007. He was described by officials there as “a probable member of al-Qaida.”

The suspected groups are considered ideological cousins of the terrorists behind the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. But State Department officials say they don’t think core al-Qaida leaders orchestrated the Benghazi attack.

The administration says it won’t give up on bringing the assailants to justice.

Since the Benghazi mission was burned, the rebel brigades that once fought Gadhafi’s forces have hardened into increasingly powerful militias, many made up of Islamic extremists. Libya’s central government is weak, security forces can’t maintain control, and bombings and shootings continue.

The State Department maintains the U.S Embassy in Tripoli but hasn’t returned to Benghazi.

Right-wing Web radio host says he wants ‘to shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina’

Right-wing Web radio host Pete Santilli told listeners he wants “to shoot (Hillary Clinton) in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away. I want her to feel the pain.”

The hate pundit is closely tied to the National Rifle Association. Although his show is broadcast only on his website, he’s considered an influential promoter of conspiracy theories on the fringe right and counts Ted Nugent among his followers. Santilli says he’s “ready to take my show to national syndication; that is, of course, if the FCC regulated AM/FM radio stations can handle my truth & honesty.”

Santilli’s remarks were made in response to the ongoing controversy over last year’s killing of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi.

Santilli said: “I want to remind you that in Benghazi, Miss Hillary ‘the fricken’ biggest vagina on the face of the planet’ told troops to stand down and to not go in and interfere with the operation that they set up because they’re moving arms; Barack Obama is moving drugs through the CIA out of Afghanistan and Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America. And if anybody has a problem with that, then you are an enemy of our state.”