Monday, October 19, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House committee investigating the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, issued a report Monday disputing what they say are unsubstantiated claims about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by some Republican members of Congress and GOP presidential candidates.
The 124-page report summarizes the results of 54 interviews and depositions conducted by the committee and includes some unclassified testimony from several top Clinton aides, including her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat, said the report shows that no witness has substantiated what he called "wild Republican conspiracy theories about Secretary Clinton and Benghazi," including a widely debunked claim that Clinton or other top officials issued a "stand down" order during the September 2012 attacks.
"It's time to bring this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition to an end," Cummings said. He called on the panel's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to move the committee's focus "from politics to policy."
The report comes as Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, is set to testify before the panel Thursday at a widely anticipated public hearing that could make or break the credibility of the 17-month-old inquiry.
The report comes amid an escalating rift between Republicans and Democrats on the committee. Cummings and other Democrats call the panel a partisan political exercise designed to exploit the deaths of four Americans and hurt Clinton's bid for the White House.
Gowdy and other Republicans say the committee is focused on those killed in Benghazi and on providing a definitive account of the attacks. There have been at least seven previous investigations
Gowdy said Sunday there was a "total disconnect" between the security needs of U.S. personnel on the ground in Libya and the political priorities of the State Department staff in Washington led by Clinton.
Gowdy described emails from Ambassador Chris Stevens to the State Department requesting more security almost from the moment he arrived in Libya in 2012. The request virtually crossed paths with one Clinton's staff sent to Stevens, asking the new ambassador to read and respond to an email from a Clinton confidant, according to Gowdy. At another point, Clinton aide Victoria Nuland asked Stevens for advice on "public messaging" on the increasingly dangerous situation in the region, Gowdy said.
Stevens was killed in the Sept. 11, 20012, attack in Benghazi.
Stevens "didn't need help with (public relations), and he was asking for more security" that he never received, Gowdy said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Gowdy refused to release the emails on Sunday. But he said the emails point to "the total disconnect between what was happening in Libya with the escalation in violence."
Democrats said in their report that comments by several GOP members of Congress, including Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,have all been refuted by witnesses interviewed by the Benghazi committee. Paul and Graham are both candidates for president.
The report also takes on claims by GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee.
Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Gowdy, said the report was an attempt by Democrats to "knock down straw men" and noted that that claims raised by the report all relate to Clinton.
"Why is not a single one about the four people who were killed or about providing better security in the future?" Ware said. "This is further proof of the Democrats' obsession with covering for Hillary Clinton instead of investigating the Benghazi terrorist attacks."
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