House Republicans took the Barack Obama White House to task with renewed vigor on Wednesday over charges that the Administration orchestrated a shameful cover-up of the Benghazi, Libya, terror attack in September.
Two attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi occurred within hours of one another on Sept. 11, resulting in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Upon review by a committee consisting of former top diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Gen. Mike Mullen, it was determined that management and leadership failures at the State Department and gross lack of security at the embassy were major factors in the fatal attacks.
Democratic lawmakers time and again have accused Republicans of politicizing the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, but information revealed in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this week highlights a certain level of Administration culpability in the fatally botched government response as the attacks unfolded. Even more damning for top Administration officials is information revealed in the Wednesday hearings that provides further evidence of a cover-up attempt.
Here are some highlights from the hearing.
Democrats doubled down attempts to divert blame from the Obama White House and State Department.
Representative William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said that budget cuts were responsible for the tragic outcome.
The State Department told Benghazi whistle-blowers not to speak to Congressional investigators.
Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission for the United States in Libya, told members of Congress that the State Department made very clear that it didn’t want him to give his account of the Benghazi attack to lawmakers — even though he was in direct contact with Washington and the consulate at the time of the attacks.
Everyone knew it was a terror attack, and response teams that could have ended the attack promptly were ordered to stand down.
Excerpted from Hicks’ testimony:
When I got to the Tactical Operations Center, I told people that the ambassador — that I had just talked to the ambassador and what he said. At the time, John Martinec was on the phone with Alec Henderson in Benghazi, the RSO there, and I asked one of our D.S. agents who — what number did I reach Ambassador Stevens on.
And he said, “Oh, that’s Scott Wickland’s telephone.” Scott Wickland was Ambassador Steven’s agent in charge, his personal escort for that night, and was with him in the villa during the attack. So I asked — when John Martinec got off the telephone, I asked him what was going on. And he said that the consulate had been breached, and there were at least 20 hostile individuals armed in the — in the compound at the time. So I next called the annex chief to ask him if he was in touch with the Benghazi annex to activate our emergency response plan.
He said later, describing steps taken before two separate stand-down orders were issued by Administration officials:
I also discussed with the annex chief about mobilizing a Tripoli response team, and we agreed that we would move forward with a — chartering a plane from Tripoli to fly a response team to Benghazi to provide additional reinforcements. The defense attache was also reporting through his chain of command, back to AFRICOM and to the joint staff here in Washington about what was going on in the country.
The State Department’s public relations following the terror attacks were baffling to many people involved.
“I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.” Hicks said, describing his reaction to Ambassador Susan Rice’s five national television appearances blaming a YouTube video for the attack.
The White House dismissed the hearings.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the Benghazi hearing as a political stunt during a briefing Wednesday.
“This is a subject that has, from its beginning, been subject to attempts to politicize it by Republicans when, in fact, what happened in Benghazi was a tragedy,” he said.
The press secretary also justified White House manipulation of facts regarding the terror attacks by saying edits to talking points relating to the event made by top Administration officials were for “stylistic” purposes.
“The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this,” Carney said. “Edits made by anyone at the White House were stylistic and not substantive. They corrected the description of the building… from consulate to diplomatic facility. Ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to congressional investigators. The attempt to politicize the talking points again is part of an effort to chase after what isn’t the substance here.”
No word yet on whether or not Merriam-Webster will alter the definition of “stylistic” to mean “of or relating especially to ass-covering lies.”