Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee claimed Tuesday that the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton lied repeatedly to the American people about the nature of and reasons for the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, even as they privately acknowledged what caused them.
A scathing report provides new ammunition against Clinton, then the secretary of state, and turn the assault on an under-protected U.S. diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA facility into the election-year issue it was always destined to be.
Republicans’ central argument is that the Obama White House chose to deceive Americans rather than risk the public relations nightmare of admitting terrorists had struck Americans overseas, less than two months before Obama’s re-election day.
‘They misled the American people and said, “We can’t tell the truth. We can’t talk about how bad the security situation was. We can’t talk about the fact that, that this was a terrorist attack. we have to mislead the American people because we are just eight weeks before an election”,’ Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the committee’s Republican members, claimed Monday morning on CNN.
The panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and other Republicans also accuse the Obama administration of stonewalling important documents and witnesses.
Democrats say the panel’s main goal is to undermine Clinton’s presidential hopes.
The attacks killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Almost immediately, the White House went into spin mode, publicly blaming the carnage on local protests over an anti-Islam YouTube video that was made in America.
That turned out not to be the case, and Monday’s report includes emails and testimony showing the administration knew it at the time.
Clinton said publicly as her Benghazi facilities were still smoldering that ‘some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.’
But in a phone call with Libyan president Mohammed al Magariaf, Clinton correctly fingered Ansar al Sharia, al Qaeda’s affiliate on the Arabian Peninsula, as the cause.
‘[O]ur diplomatic mission was attacked[.] . . . [T]here is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as-Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for,’ a note-taker recorded Clinton telling al Magariaf.
Clinton also emailed her daughter during the fog of the event: ‘Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group.’
And she told Egypt’s prime minister a day later: ‘We know that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest.’
‘None of the information coming directly from the agents on the ground in Benghazi during the attacks mentioned anything about a video or a protest. The firsthand accounts made their way to the office of the Secretary through multiple channels quickly,’ the Benghazi committee’s majority report concludes.
In one example, a senior watch officer serving at the diplomatic security command of the State Department called the 2012 devastation ‘a full on attack against our compound.’
A colleague asked him if saw or heard any protests before the shooting and bombing began, he replied: ‘zip, nothing, nada.’
Clinton has come under fire from family members of the U.S. personnel killed in Benghazi, who say she personally told them the government would seek justice against the video’s creator.
Democrats released a report Monday stating that Clinton never personally denied any requests from diplomats for additional security at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi.
They said after a two-year investigation that the military could not have done anything differently that night to save the lives of four Americans killed in Libya.
But the report itself argues that delays in the Obama administration’s response to the deadly attacks were caused by slow decision-making and political considerations.
During a senior level meeting convened at the White House just three hours into the attack – attended by senior deputies to cabinet secretaries, including Clinton’s – conversations focused on how to frame the attack as a protest gone bad, not on how to ensure the safe extraction of Stevens.
‘Nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began,’ the report concludes.
‘With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video,’ committee members wrote.
Other ‘action items’ contained ‘the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi”.’
The administration’s spokespersons later insisted that deploying military rapid-reaction forces based in Italy and elsewhere into the Libyan port city would have been a waste of time given the short duration of the attacks.
But some witnesses told the congressional committee that there was no way to know at the outset how many hours it might have gone on.