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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s awkward debate moment Tuesday on the terrorist attack in Libya has not quelled Republican demands for more information about what the president knew, when he knew it and whether he should have anticipated the Sept. 11 event.
With the topic sure to come up again during Monday’s foreign policy debate, Romney will get another chance to make his case that the Obama administration failed to provide adequate security and only belatedly acknowledged that the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, resulted from a terror attack rather than a violent protest.
Democrats cheered after President Barack Obama gave his strongest statement to date on the attack during Tuesday night’s debate, while Romney stumbled in his attempt to put the president on the defensive. But the administration has not provided a full account of what the White House knew about the deteriorating situation in Benghazi prior to Sept. 11, why it took the administration weeks to shift from the initial story that the attack was a response to an anti-Islam YouTube video and who rejected requests for additional security at the U.S. mission.
Republicans in Congress are not about to let the issue go, with several committee investigations under way.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a top Romney surrogate, said the president wants to make it seem like he was on top of what happened, when the reality is he and his administration were talking about the YouTube video for weeks.
“I think there are still very serious questions,” she said Wednesday. “The question he did not answer at all last night was, ‘Were you aware of the prior attacks on this consulate, including the one in June, when a hole was blown in the wall?’ If he didn’t know, why? Why were the security requests denied in light of the security situation that was clearly getting worse? It really begs the question of what did he know.”
On Tuesday, before Romney and Obama squared off, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) sent letters to top intelligence officials asking if the president was told about attacks on the consulate in April and June.
“Did you inform the president of these attacks? If so, what action was taken to protect our consulate? If you did not inform the president, why not?” the South Carolina lawmaker asked.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted Obama’s efforts to capitalize politically on his record on terrorism.