Republican lawmakers investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the deaths of four Americans released their lengthy report Tuesday, blaming the Obama administration for misreading information leading up to and during the attacks and dragging its heels in the aftermath.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi report details a bureaucratic morass that led to errors and missed opportunities as Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Libya, and three colleagues were killed.
“There is new information on what happened in Benghazi and that information should fundamentally change how you view what happened in Benghazi,” committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
The Obama administration’s defenders have pushed back on critics who blamed the officials for failing to make every effort to save the Americans in danger in Libya. But Gowdy said senior officials in Washington, focusing on a YouTube video that had set off protests in Egypt and elsewhere across the Middle East rather than intelligence coming out of Benghazi, proved fatal.
“It has been said nothing could have reached Benghazi before the lethal attacks,” Gowdy said. “What is missing in that analysis is nothing could have reached Benghazi because nothing was ever headed to Benghazi.”
The report found no new evidence of wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Gowdy defended the investment of time and money into the investigation – it followed at least seven other congressional panels looking into the same incident and cost an estimate of more than $7 million – as uncovering new facts and presenting them in context he said would change the narrative of how the incident unfolded.
But if the bulk of the 800-page report avoided politics – and while Gowdy repeatedly and insistently refused to assign blame on Clinton during Tuesday’s press conference – attached appendices freely pointed the finger at President Barack Obama, worried about his own re-election prospects 56 days after the attack, and Clinton, whose own political fortunes were inexorably tied to Obama and his foreign policy.
An addendum to the report penned by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Pompeo of Kansas contained the harshest critiques of Clinton and Obama’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks.
“Obama Administration officials, including the Secretary of State, learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” Jordan said in a statement released with the report. “Rather than tell the American people the truth, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly.”
Jordan and Pompeo accused Obama and Clinton of trying to minimize the ramifications of the attacks, which occurred so close to the 2012 elections. They said the administration was more concerned with protecting their preferred narrative pronouncing American involvement in Libya that brought down dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
“Libya was supposed to be the crowning jewel of the Clinton State Department foreign policy and the Obama administration foreign policy – no boots on the ground,” Jordan said Tuesday. “This was something Hillary Clinton pushed for and got done.”
“They were so committed it didn’t matter there were 200 security incidents between the time [Gaddafi was killed] and the time of the attacks,” he continued.
Pompeo went further, calling Clinton’s actions – particularly the disparity they say Clinton maintained between what she told the public and on whom she privately blamed for the attacks – “morally reprehensible.”
“On the night of the attack, there was no fog of war, no confusion. The administration knew this was a terrorist attack,” Pompeo said Tuesday. “If you choose to put political expediency and politics ahead of men and women on the ground, I find it morally reprehensible.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that the new information in the report suggested a “politically motivated cover-up” that amounted to a “disqualifying act of deception.”
“Hillary Clinton was in charge, knew the risks and did nothing,” Priebus said. “Together the report’s findings make clear we cannot afford to let Hillary Clinton be our next commander-in-chief.”
Clinton’s campaign pushed back on the final report as a purely partisan affair.
“In refusing to issue its report on a bipartisan basis, the committee is breaking from the precedent set down by other congressional inquiries into the Benghazi attacks,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. “And in leaking out select portions from their report in the middle of the night, without even allowing some of the committee’s own members to see it, the Republican members are clearly seeking to avoid any fact-checking of their discredited conspiracy theories.”
Throughout the course of the investigation, Democrats on the Benghazi committee repeatedly accused their Republican colleagues of trying to damage her presidential campaign. After battling to be allowed to fully participate in the mechanics of the investigation, claiming Republicans were locking them out of key parts of the process, the Democrats on the committee largely washed their hands of the committee’s work after Clinton’s testimony, saying it had devolved into a witch hunt.