WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., Thursday accused the White House and President Obama of lying about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“What is clear is that this administration, including the president himself, has intentionally misinformed, read that ‘lied,’ to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy,” Rohrabacher said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “Now President Obama has the gall to float the name [of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice] as possibly secretary of state, the name of the person who is the actual vehicle used to misinform the American people during this crisis.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., called the attack on Rice “unfair” and reminded the committee that former Secretary of State Colin Powell — based on erroneous information he had been given — assured the nation Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because that’s the information that was given to him, NBC News reported.
Rohrabacher dug in, insisting the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack “is not simply a cover up of a third-rate burglary” — a reference to Watergate.
“We have four of our personnel dead, and it is not a McCarthy-era tactic to demand accountability and to demand that American people are not misinformed about it to the point that they don’t know what the threat is,” he said.
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., told colleagues on the committee, “The stench of hypocrisy that hangs over this city today emanates from this room.”
Ackerman noted congressional Republicans had rejected an administration request for “$440 million more than you guys wanted to provide” for diplomatic security worldwide.
“And the answer is that you damn didn’t provide it! You reduced what the administration asked for to protect these people,” he said. “Ask not who the guilty party is, it’s you! It is us. It is this committee, and the things that we insist that we need have to cost money.”
“The election is over,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. “The president won re-election. The voices of the public were heard. They want us to cooperate. If you want an honest investigation of this tragedy, we will join you. But if you want to persist in trying to put this, lay this somehow at the doorstep of the president or the secretary of state or the United Nations ambassador, you will find us ready and willing to resist to the teeth.”
Top U.S. lawmakers rebuffed calls for Watergate-type hearings on the Libya U.S. Consulate attack as ex-CIA chief David Petraeus agreed to testify on the assault.
“At this point, I think that the standing committees of the House, whether they be the Oversight Committee or the Intelligence Committee, are working diligently on these issues,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “And at this point, I think that’s appropriate.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., similarly said he opposed a resolution by three Republican senators to create a select or special Senate investigative committee to probe the Sept. 11 consulate attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two CIA contractors.
“No,” Reid told reporters when asked if he favored the special committee proposed by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
The senators said the committee was needed because many senators don’t trust the administration’s account of the attack. Administration officials first said the attack was a result of a spontaneous protest and not a planned terrorist attack.
Some lawmakers have suggested the White House attempted to cover up the circumstances of the attack by saying it was spontaneous.
Administration officials confirmed last week the consulate was essentially a front for a much larger CIA base about a mile away. Most of the 30 Americans evacuated after the attack were CIA employees or contractors, not diplomats.
“We want to probe everybody who was involved, all the way up to and including the president of the United States,” McCain said.
Five of the eight Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — including McCain — did not attend a classified briefing on the attack, conducted Wednesday by administration officials, CNN reported.
CNN said one of its reporters approached McCain at the Capitol Thursday to ask why he did not attend, but McCain declined to answer, saying, “I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media.”
When the reporter asked McCain why he would not comment, McCain said, “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”
A spokesman for McCain subsequently told CNN in an email the senator missed the briefing due to a “scheduling error.”
CNN noted McCain was holding a news conference at noon Wednesday while his committee was being briefed on the Benghazi attack.
One senator who did attend the briefing, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, said afterward he thinks the Homeland Security Committee can do a proper job of investigating Benghazi, Politico reported.
The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, concurred.
“I do not see the benefit of creating a brand new committee when we already have the Senate’s chief oversight committee, plus the Intelligence Committee, examining this very important matter,” Collins told Politico.
First-term Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida Thursday distanced himself from the comments of McCain and Graham on whether Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was disqualified from consideration as a successor to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rubio said President Barack Obama has the right to choose whoever he believes will most help the country and the Senate should wait to respond until a nominee is chosen.
Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director Friday over an extramarital affair, agreed to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees on the Benghazi attack, lawmakers said.
The former four-star general — who ran the CIA for 14 months, including during the Benghazi attack — was to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session Thursday or Friday, panel Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told several news organizations Wednesday.
The hearing would not address his affair, committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said.
Petraeus is to testify separately behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee Friday, the committee said Wednesday evening.
Petraeus’ successor — acting CIA Director Michael Morell — was to testify in private before the House and Senate intelligence committees Thursday. Other top-ranking intelligence officials scheduled to testify included National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Petraeus’ boss.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee was to hold an open hearing on the Benghazi attack beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed briefing Tuesday.