Two top Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee blasted Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration Tuesday for “a tragic failure of leadership” in the run-up to the deaths of four Americans in the U.S. outpost in Libya in 2012.
Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, accuse the administration of covering up the true nature of the attack on Benghazi to avoid damaging President Barack Obama’s re-election race. The hardline conservatives, who were among Clinton’s toughest questioners during her testimony before the committee last year, released their own account of the attacks to complement the panel’s overall report.
“What we did find was a tragic failure of leadership – in the run up to the attack and the night of – and an administration that, so blinded by politics and its desire to win an election, disregarded a basic duty of government: Tell the people the truth,” the congressmen wrote. “And for those reasons Benghazi is and always will be, an American tragedy.”
Their decision to release an addendum to the main report appears to suggest that Pompeo and Jordan believe the committee report does not go far enough in criticizing Clinton and the administration.
“The overall report, it’s about the facts, what happened,” Jordan told Chris Cuomo Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “But Mr. Pompeo and I thought it was important to ask the questions. Why were we still in Benghazi when almost every other country had left? Why did we stay in Benghazi when the security situation was so terrible, so dangerous? And why did the administration mislead us?”
The congressmen write that the administration did not do all it could to save Americans under attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. They also say the administration failed to bring all the perpetrators to justice and accuse Democrats of blocking the GOP-led probe.
The conservatives specifically accuse Clinton of doing nothing to improve security in Benghazi, a lapse that they blame for the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three compatriots during the attacks on a U.S. outpost and a CIA annex.
The analysis includes some explicit criticism of Clinton that is likely to be fuel presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s charges that she is responsible for the deaths in the attack, which was first thought to be a protest but then proven to be a terrorist assault.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon blasted the committee in an overnight tweet.
“Far from honoring the four brave Americans who died, the Benghazi Committee has been a partisan sham since its start,” he wrote.
The analysis from Pompeo and Jordan details a memo from then-Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, which painted a picture of worsening security conditions across eastern Libya.
Clinton argued during her 11-hour grilling before the committee last October that no recommendations were made to her from State Department experts or the intelligence community that U.S. facilities in Benghazi or Tripoli should be abandoned on the basis of the assessments.
But the Pompeo/Jordan report argues that by August 17, 2012, “it had become a situation that now demanded leadership by the Secretary of State herself – leadership that did not sit back and wait for a recommendation.”
It was now time for Clinton to show “leadership to upgrade the facility or get our people out … “
“She had the last, clear chance to order an immediate closure of the Benghazi facility yet did nothing and four Americans died.”
The document examines the issue of whether U.S. forces in Europe or the United States were ever deployed in a bid to aid Americans in Benghazi.
The report related how former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified that he had ordered three assets to deploy, a Marine anti-terrorism support team, a unit known as a Commanders in Extremis force and a U.S.-based hostage rescue team.
The congressmen say that Americans had been told by the administration that the military could never have reached Benghazi in time to help the beleaguered Americans with jets, drones or personnel. But the analysis says fighter planes and armed drones never left the ground and planes carrying the rescue teams did not take off until hours after the attack was over.
“We are now convinced, contrary to the administration’s public claim that the military did not have time to get to Benghazi, that the administration never launched men or machines to help directly in the fight.”
“That is very different from what we have been told to date,” the analysis continues.
The congressmen also rebuke the military, saying the Pentagon failed to provide the committee with lists of planes that could have reached Benghazi or an inventory of armed drone assets.
Democrats point to previous investigations conducted by the House Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence panel that concluded that when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi came under attack the military commanders did what they could under the time and distance constraints to respond. Those investigations did not find any evidence that there was a so-called “stand down” order given by someone in the government or military that prevented any U.S. forces from getting to the site to help save anyone under attack as some conservatives have claimed.
Republicans have long sought to prove that Obama, Clinton and other senior members of the administration were asleep at the switch during the Benghazi attack and did not do enough to save Stevens.
The congressmen conclude that Panetta met Obama in the early evening of September 11, 2012, about the attack but did not have any further contact with him for the rest of the day.
The report says Clinton and Panetta did not speak at all about the unfolding crisis and Clinton did not speak with Obama until 10:30 p.m. that night – six hours after the attack began and five hours after Stevens went missing.
The committee contrasts the level of administration engagement with the famous picture of the Obama war cabinet pictured in a Situation Room annex during the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.
“Benghazi should have merited the same level of attention and urgency,” the excerpts from the analysis said.
Democrats accuse Committee chairman, South Carolina Rep. Gowdy and other Republicans on the panel of using the investigation to directly target Clinton and of seeking to wound her presidential ambitions.
Democrats released their own prebuttal of the Gowdy committee report on Monday, accusing the GOP of wasting public money on a political witch hunt and of seeking to wound their party’s presidential nominee with their probe.