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New evidence revealed on Capitol Hill on Wednesday suggested senior State Department officials were involved in key decisions prior to the lethal attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, last September and the mischaracterizations of that attack afterward.
Those revelations are sure to feed the continued Republican-led investigations into the incident, but they did nothing to convince Democrats that GOP outrage on Benghazi is anything more than partisan gamesmanship.
“We all watched today as unsubstantiated Republican allegations disintegrated one by one,” the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said in a statement issued near the end of a more than five-hour hearing. “What should have been a bipartisan investigation involving our national security was another sorry example of Republicans promising explosive new facts but delivering only a press spectacle.”
Democrats did succeed in countering many of the claims the witnesses — Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., dubbed them “whistle-blowers” — made regarding the U.S. military’s response to the Sept. 11 attack, which left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other State Department employees dead.
And there is still no evidence that anyone at the highest levels of government — President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or top military brass — was culpable either in decisions related to securing the compound, responding to the violence or the mistaken assertion, repeated by some officials, that the attack was the outgrowth of a spontaneous protest.
It’s also unclear whether most Senate Republicans share the same level of outrage as their House counterparts.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, told MSNBC before the House hearing began that “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”
The hearing did, however, raise new questions about the behavior of several top players at Foggy Bottom, who up to this point have avoided scrutiny or fallout.
In particular, Clinton’s counselor and chief of staff Cheryl Mills, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones found themselves in the cross hairs of the GOP and the hearing’s witnesses.
No one at Kennedy or Mills’ political level has been held accountable for the events surrounding the Benghazi attack. An independent panel, known as an Accountability Review Board, reprimanded four other mid-level State Department employees, who have been relieved of their posts and placed on administrative leave.