Hillary Clinton says it’s “time to move on” after a congressional report on the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks accused the Obama administration of lethal mistakes, but produced no new evidence pointing to wrongdoing by the former secretary of state.
Not likely, especially in an election year with Clinton’s presidential rival – Donald Trump – lashing out.
An 800-page report by a special House committee makes no direct accusations of wrongdoing by Clinton, who was secretary of state during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Still, Republicans point to Benghazi as a major failure by the administration and by Clinton during her tenure leading the State Department. The issue is likely to shadow Clinton as she continues her bid for president.
“Four Americans died, yet no one has been fired. No one even missed a paycheck,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Americans – including all our men and women serving overseas – deserve better.”
Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said the report by Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee took more than two years and $7 million but “found nothing to contradict” the findings of earlier investigations.
“I think it’s pretty clear it’s time to move on,” Clinton said Tuesday.
Republicans were not ready to let the issue go, especially with an election that will decide who occupies the White House and which party will control the House and Senate. The Benghazi panel has scheduled a July 8 meeting to formally adopt the report – 10 days before the Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican facing a tough re-election race, said the administration “ignored a deteriorating security situation” in Benghazi, “and the State Department disregarded repeated requests for increased security.”
Trump said on Twitter that “Benghazi is just another Hillary Clinton failure. It just never seems to work the way it’s supposed to with Clinton.”
Meanwhile, Stevens’ sister said she does not blame Clinton for her brother’s death.
Dr. Anne Stevens, chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told the New Yorker magazine that in hindsight, it’s clear the Benghazi facility “was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department.”
But Stevens added, “I do not blame Hillary Clinton or (former Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. … Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted.”
Even after issuing the report, the committee’s work is not over. The panel interviewed a witness Wednesday who posted on Facebook that he was a crew chief at an air base in Italy on the night of the attacks. A committee spokesman said a transcript of the 2 ½-hour interview will be posted on the panel’s website. Information from the interview might be added to the report.
Democrats called the interview ridiculous.
“Republicans are addicted to Benghazi and to exploiting this tragedy for political reasons,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s senior Democrat.
The Libya attacks have been political fodder from the start, given their timing in the weeks before President Barack Obama’s re-election, and that has not abated despite seven previous congressional investigations. There has been finger-pointing on both sides over security at the diplomatic outpost and whether Clinton and the White House initially tried to portray the assault as a protest over an offensive, anti-Muslim video, instead of a calculated terrorist attack.
The prolonged investigation into the attacks has also been marked by partisan sniping.
Republican insistence that the investigation was not politically motivated was undermined last year when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested that the committee could take credit for Clinton’s then-slumping poll numbers.
The committee interviewed more than 100 witnesses and reviewed some 75,000 pages of documents, but an almost accidental discovery by the panel last year has shadowed Clinton’s candidacy. The committee disclosed that she had used a private email server to conduct government business while serving as secretary of state, a practice that has drawn widespread scrutiny, including an FBI investigation.
The GOP report severely criticizes the military, CIA and administration officials for their response as the attacks unfolded, and their subsequent explanations to the American people.