Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has rejected Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) request to establish a Select Committee to investigate the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11. In a strongly worded letter delivered to the former GOP presidential hopeful on Friday, Reid rebuked Republicans for politicizing the killings and baselessly claiming that the Obama administration is engaged in a cover-up of the incident. “I refuse to allow the Senate to be used as a venue for baseless partisan attacks,” Reid wrote, noting that several committees in the House and Senate are already investigating the tragedy.
Earlier this week, McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), held around the clock press conferences and media appearances insisting that U.N. Ambassador misled the public when she described, five days after the attacks, the incident as a “spontaneous attack” inspired by an anti-Islam video. McCain and Graham promised to block Rice should she be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State; Ayotte said she would consider the nomination.
In his letter, Reid reminded McCain that “elections are over; it is time to put an end to the partisan politicization of national security and begin working together to strengthen our efforts to dismantle and destroy the terrorist networks that threaten us.” He also rebuked the Arizona senator for skipping a closed-doors committee hearing on Benghazi in order to hold a press conference demanding more information about the attacks:
I am concerned that a Select Committee, as you propose, would duplicate and, ultimately undermine the numerous investigations into the attack that are already proceeding in the Senate committees of jurisdiction, and may serve to further politicize an issue that has already been manipulated by Members of both the House and Senate in service of partisan agendas. [...]
For instance, on Wednesday, Senator McCain failed to attend a classified briefing held by the Senate Homeland Security Committee on this very issue. [...]
One of you, Senator McCain, has gone so far ast o make the outrageous claim that this event was “worse than Watergate” — despite the fact that there is no evidence that any crime was committed, no evidence of any cover-up, and no evidence that the administration has characterized the incident in any way that has not been consistent with the Intelligence Community’s contemporaneous assessments.
Indeed, the GOP’s accusations of an administration cover-up seemed to fall apart after testimony from former CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus on Friday revealed that the CIA approved the declassified talking points used by Rice during her television appearances. The hearings also confirmed that the agency had received conflicting intelligence reports in real time during the attacks.
While one stream of intelligence “from multiple sources, including video at the scene, indicated the group was behind the attack,” other reports “emerged at the same time indicating the violence at the consulate was inspired by protests in Egypt over an ostensibly anti-Islam film that was privately produced in the United States.” Twenty intelligence reports “indicated that anger about the film may be to blame.”
As Reid noted in his letter to McCain, several prominent Republicans have rebuked the GOP’s efforts to politicize the incident. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said, “It’s easy to try and jump to conclusions about what might have happened here. It’s probably better to let the relevant bodies do their work.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has also dismissed McCain’s call for a Select Committee.