REPUBLICANS’ $7 MILLION BENGHAZI REPORT IS ANOTHER DUD (Vanity Fair)
After a more than two-year investigation, encompassing 33 hearings held in congressional investigations and four public hearings, at an estimated cost of $7 million and counting, Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee on Tuesday released their long-awaited report on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans. With the general election five months away, many predicted that the 800-page report would inflame the already fiery 2016 presidential election by finding evidence of wrongdoing by presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack. But it seems that while the committee’s investigation will certainly thrust Benghazi back into the public eye, and it did manage to unearth some new details, Republicans once again failed to find a smoking gun to pin the tragedy on Clinton.
Released just one day after Democrats’ own Benghazi report, which largely cleared Clinton on Monday, the Republican version seeks to highlight how the Clinton-led State Department failed to adequately protect U.S. personnel, how the Defense Department failed to respond to the attack in a timely matter, and how the C.I.A. missed the warning signs. But the report offers little new information. For the thousands of hours and millions of dollars spent rehashing the tragedy, the overarching partisan narratives that have been established in the years since the attack is unlikely to change after Tuesday’s release, even if it does giftDonald Trump with a minimal amount of fresh material for his stump speech.
The few new points of interest are not particularly damning. The years-long investigation found that Clinton was planning to visit Libya in 2012, according to testimony from Gregory Hicks, who was Deputy Chief of Mission during the time of the Benghazi attacks. The Washington Post reports that Hicks had a conversation with Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, one of the four Americans killed in the tragedy, which indicated that the “temporary U.S. mission to Benghazi would be made into a permanent U.S. diplomatic facility.” This reveal could be interpreted by Republicans as proof that in an effort to build her personal legacy by playing a key role in the U.S. government’s plot to oust Muammar Qaddafi, she ignored signs of instability and threats in Benghazi. According to the Post,Republican committee members Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo wrote in the report, “No matter how important a presence was—to Secretary Clinton, to the State Department, to the United States—it should have become very clear that the risks of staying without more security outweighed any possible benefit.” In her Benghazi hearing in October of last year, the former secretary of state did acknowledge that she received a memo from Beth Jones, who was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs at the time, that warned of an uptick in crime and violence in the region, but she asserted that it was no recommendation that the U.S. “should abandon either Benghazi or Tripoli.” The report does support Clinton’s consistent claims that she did not personally deny requests for more security in Benghazi, but that other senior officials in the State Department made those decisions, CNN reports.
The House Select committee reportedly focused intently on the factors that contributed to the slow military response time on the night of September 11, 2012. The State Department has routinely argued that the military would not have been able to reach the North African city in time to save the Americans who were killed in the attack, but the Republican report argues that the Department of Defense should have at least attempted to do so and criticizes the military for not having resources ready to deploy, Politico reports. It also adds that the military was deployed after Libyan troops evacuated Americans and those deployed were directed to Tripoli, not Benghazi. “What was disturbing from the evidence the Committee found was that at the time of the final lethal attack at the Annex, no asset ordered deployed by the Secretary had even left the ground,” the report states, according to NBC News. But Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the committee, told the Post, “Nothing in the Republican spin changes the underlying facts. Nothing has disturbed the conclusions ... that no military assets could have gotten there in time.”
Ultimately, while the conclusions drawn by the competing reports are in sharp contrast with each other, neither place blame directly on Clinton for her actions during the Benghazi attack. The Republicans’ report alleges that “the response to the attacks suffered from confusion and miscommunication circulating between agencies,” NBC News reports. The Democrats’ report concludes, “the U.S. military could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi.” Both, undoubtedly, are correct to some degree. Perhaps now, after four years and eight separate investigations that all failed to find evidence of a cover-up, the G.O.P. can move on.
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