Politics

Democrats' Benghazi Report Seeks to Shield Clinton from Blame

Release pre-empts Republican-led report expected to hit Clinton hard over terror attack

Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., spar during a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in October. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never denied requests for additional security at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that was overrun by militants in 2012, Democrats said in a finding that pre-empted the release of a Republican-led report on the deadly attack.  

In their own report , the Democratic members of the Select Committee on Benghazi found that State Department security measures at the doomed government compound were inadequate, but sought to shield Clinton, the party's presumptive presidential nominee, from direct blame.  

Four people, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the armed assault on the State Department building and a neighboring CIA annex that has become a partisan flashpoint over the Obama administration's conduct of foreign policy.  

“We are issuing our own report today because, after spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, it is long past time for the Select Committee to conclude its work,” wrote the Democrats led by panel ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland.  

“Despite our repeated requests over the last several months, Republicans have refused to provide us with a draft of their report — or even a basic outline — making it impossible for us to provide input and obvious that we are being shut out of the process until the last possible moment.”  

Benghazi Committee Declines to Fault Clinton

Along with the report, the Democrats released copies of unclassified transcripts they had in their possession. Democrats said the Republicans have excluded them from some interviews and withheld transcripts.  

[ Amid GOP Criticism, Gowdy Defends Benghazi Investigation ]  

Matt Wolking, spokesman for the Republican-led investigation, characterized the Democrats' report as “rehashed, partisan talking points defending their endorsed candidate for president.”  

Republicans have seized on a post-attack narrative that the administration was disengaged and left U.S. personnel vulnerable in a country riven by political and economic instability since the uprising that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi the year before.  

They have focused specifically on Clinton, the nation's top diplomat at the time, and have zeroed-in on the administration's initial public response tying the attack to spontaneous protests over a U.S.-made anti-Muslim film, and not to terrorism.  

The Democrats' report concluded that administration officials did not intentionally make misleading statements after the attack, but were responding to the information they had at the time.  

The report found that the intelligence community's assessments evolved as more information became available, but politics was not a factor. The Defense Department could not have done anything differently that would have prevented the American deaths, the report said.  

The attack occurred during the stretch run of the 2012 presidential election, giving Republicans a fresh line of attack against Obama. They established the select committee two years later and its witnesses included Clinton, who spent more than 11 hours answering questions last fall.  

Democrats have long said Benghazi was thoroughly investigated and continuing to pursue the matter absent any additional facts was solely to politicize a tragedy and damage Clinton's presidential aspirations.  

Republicans at the center of the probe have said the administration's actions before, during and after the episode needed more thorough congressional scrutiny.

Wolking said in a statement that Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has said the probe is not about a single person.

"This investigation is about the four brave Americans we lost in Libya: Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. That is how the majority has conducted its thorough investigation, and we look forward to revealing the new information we have uncovered to the families and the American people,” he said.

There have been weeks of speculation that Republicans were ready to close their investigation and release their findings, which are expected to place considerable blame on Clinton.  

[ Clinton Evades GOP Blows in Benghazi Hearing (Video) ]  

The panel's goal had been to release the report by this summer, but that timeline has slipped as Republicans have been interviewing final witnesses and following up on information it has requested but not received.   

In addition to Cummings, the other Democrats on the panel  include Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff  and Linda Sánchez, both of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.  

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