GOP lawmakers remain outraged over a series of e-mails detailing the drafts of State Department talking points in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“For the president’s spokesman to say there were only technical changes made in those e-mails is a flat out untruth," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona Sunday. "We now know any reference of active terror any reference to al-Qaida were removed from those talking points. I’d call it a cover up.”
“Cover up” is becoming the phrase that pays for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has created a webpage soliciting donations for the purpose of “Going after Obama on Benghazi.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Republican Darrell Issa of California provided an early return on donors' investments Sunday, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press to ask, “How could you change talking points 12 times from what seems to be relatively right, to what seems to be completely wrong?”
Jonathan Karl, the ABC journalist who broke the story of the multiple drafts of the talking points, added that then-CIA director found the finalized version, “essentially useless.”
Issa went on to add that neither President Obama nor former former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are the targets of his investigation. Instead, his committee plans to interrogate the heads of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) responsible for the government’s official investigation on the Benghazi attacks. This call comes one day after Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, complained that the ARB investigation failed to go after top ranked officials at the State Department, including then-Secretary Clinton.
Former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, co-chair of the Benghazi ARB, joined Weekends with Alex Witt to discuss his investigation and rebut the recent criticism it has received for focusing on low-level staffers.
“We saw Hillary Clinton, we saw her two deputies," Pickering said. "The assistant secretary who was among those who we felt failed in the performance of duty is not a low-level official. I’ve been in the State Department 42 years before I retired, and I wouldn’t consider it low-level.”
The product of these interviews was a report that had “29 recommendations, a series of findings, and still I think the most thorough account of the events leading up to Benghazi and what actually happened the night of the attacks. Up until now I’ve listened very carefully and I don’t see there’s anything there that I would change,” Pickering said.
The report goes on to identify four individuals who bear direct responsibility for the lack of the security at the Benghazi facility, two of whom have left their posts. While the report identified the level of safety at the Benghazi facility as “grossly inadequate," the report also found that a meaningful military response would not have been possible, and that the government extracting all personnel from Benghazi by the following morning was as successful an operation as could be reasonably expected.
While Pickering believes that “progress is being made” to address the changes advocated in the ARB report, he said he cannot predict when the political rhetoric surrounding Benghazi will wind down.
“It seems to me to have drifted very much into the realm of political partisanship," he said.