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House Benghazi report slams White House, defense cuts

A House committee released an update on Benghazi, considering the White House and Defense Department’s roles in the deadly terrorist attacks.
A view inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi, Libya on September 13, 2012.
A view inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi, Libya on September 13, 2012.

The Republican-led House Armed Services committee released a new report blaming the White House for ignoring the security threats facing U.S. personnel in the lead up to the 2012 deadly terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The report, unveiled Tuesday, heavily criticizes the Obama administration’s preparedness and response to the attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The conclusion is largely in line with the House's other oversight reports on the attack that have found fault with the White House.

“We should learn a hard lesson from this that the commander-in-chief was basically AWOL in this situation,” the committee's head Rep. Buck McKeon said on Tuesday's Morning Joe. McKeon noted that despite a number of public and classified reports that the situation in Libya was deteriorating, the president touted meetings the day before the attacks “to review security measures” and emphasized their focus on country’s security at home and abroad. McKeon said Tuesday such a meeting should have taken place months earlier.

Republicans seized on the Benghazi attacks as proof of what they see as incompetence by both Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, someone they likely hope to discredit in advance of a possible 2016 run. 

The report directly contradicts the Senate report, which found that the attacks may not have been planned in advance; the House report says that the Defense Department “believed nearly from the outset of violence in Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack rather than a protest gone awry,” a theory of the attacks that has been debated for more than a year. 

It's these conflicting narratives that has some Republicans claiming a White House "coverup," but the House report shies away from stating that.

The House report finds that U.S. personnel were “vulnerable” because the White House did not order changes to the force’s "posture" in the region and criticizes defense cuts in the budget for the lack of preparedness.

“We expected the military to be there 7/24, no matter how we cut back on their resources and their abilities,” McKeon said on Tuesday’s Morning Joe.

The report largely absolves the military for its response, instead laying blame on the Department of Defense and White House's direction.

The House are expected to trade votes for a raise of the debt limit soon, in exchange for reversing the unpopular cuts to military pensions, shortly, pushing back against the latest defense cut.

The president acknowledged the security failures on Benghazi in a recent Fox News interview.

“In the aftermath, what became clear was that the security was lax, that not all the precautions … that needed to be taken were taken and both myself and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and others indicated as much," Obama told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.