As House Republicans on Tuesday released their long-awaited report detailing the events surrounding the deadly 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, they refused to assign blame to any individual and said the 800-page report should speak for itself.
"I’m not in the business of apportioning culpability. I think there’s enough to go around," Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said at a news conference.
The lengthy Republican investigation has been panned by Democrats as an attempt to smear the Obama administration, especially former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she runs for president.
Gowdy rejected that characterization, saying the committee was formed to uncover the facts about the deaths of Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, not focus on one individual or impact 2016 presidential politics.
"I’m actually proud of what we found and I think it’s new," Gowdy said.
At a campaign event in Denver, Clinton said the committee spent two years and spent $7 million without finding anything to contradict previous investigations of the Sept. 11 armed militant assault on the diplomatic compound and adjacent CIA annex in the restive city in eastern Libya.
Benghazi Committee Declines to Fault Clinton
"I have said from the very beginning nothing is more important than the security of our diplomats and our development officials to go into dangerous places," she said. "And I said this when I testified for 11 hours that no one has thought more about or lost more sleep over the lives that we lost, the four Americans."
[ Democrats' Benghazi Report Seeks to Shield Clinton from Blame ] In a key finding of the report that Republicans said was new, U.S. military assets were not deployed to Libya in the eight hours after the attacks began and before Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were killed, despite orders from President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to send assistance.
"At the time those two Americans were killed, not a single wheel on a single U.S. military asset had turned toward Libya," Gowdy said.
The report also describes a two-hour White House meeting that took place as the attacks were unfolding, in which the concern seemed to be more about maintaining diplomatic ties with Libya than getting assistance to the Americans at the consulate.
"They’re worried about approvals; they’re worried about how this will come off," select committee member Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said of the administration. The heroism of the men on the ground in Benghazi presents a "jarring contrast" with the "near fecklessness" of officials in Washington, he said.
The report also describes how half of the response coming out of that White House meeting related to the anti-Muslim video that the administration initially said provoked the attacks.
"The bottom line is Washington failed to have our guys’ backs when they needed it," panel member Martha Roby, R-Ala., added.
Democrats on the select committee, led by ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released their own Benghazi report on Monday . Their report concluded that State Department security measures in Benghazi were inadequate but that Clinton never denied additional requests for security.
Gowdy said that the Democrats' 339-page report refers to Clinton more times than the Republican report that is more than double the length. He also pointed out that the Democrats' report refers to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who had nothing to do with Benghazi.
While Democrats said they were left out of the investigation, Gowdy said they refused to cooperate"Color me shocked that they are critical of our report," he said.
The committee interviewed more than 100 witnesses, including more than 80 whom other congressional committees that investigated the incident had not talked to, and obtained tens of thousands of pages of new documents, he said.
The select committee intends to release interview transcripts and other documents used in the investigation, including various emails related to the attacks, but they need the administration to help clear them for public release as classified information has to be redacted.
"I don’t think it’s fair to piecemeal them out but they ought to be made publicly available," Gowdy said.
Democrats have released some transcripts throughout the investigation and along with their report Monday released all the transcripts they had in their possession.
Expanding upon the select committee's official report, panel members Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, issued a 48-page "additional views" supplement outlining what they see as the reasons why the events described in the report unfolded they way they did.
"In the end it was political concerns that drove this," Jordan said. "The evidence strongly shows that."
Jordan argued that Clinton intentionally misled the public when she made her first public statement about the attacks and called them a protest inspired by the anti-Muslim video.
"We know that statement was misleading because an hour later she told her daughter terrorists killed two of our people," he said, noting, "This public, private contrast continues for days."
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