CREDIT: Fox News
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continued his Benghazi crusade on Sunday, maintaining his pledge to hold President Obama’s nominees to lead the Federal Reserve and the Department of Homeland Security unless he gets more information about the terror attack last year.
Last week Graham said he will hold the nominees — Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen and former Defense Department counsel Jeh Johnson — until there is a public hearing from any and all witnesses of the Benghazi attack (this has actually already happened). But on Fox News Sunday yesterday, the South Carolina Republican said he also wants to know why the Obama administration initially said the Benghazi attack grew out of an anti-Islam video protest:
GRAHAM: I’m not trying to solve a crime. I’m trying to find out from the mouths of the people who are on the ground, did you ever report to Washington or anyone that there was a protest? Because how could the president, Jay Carney, Susan Rice and all of them claim that this was a protest created by a video if nobody on the ground who lived through the attack ever said there was a protest? So two days after the attack, did the survivors say to the FBI there was a protest? If they did not, how did this story of a protest start?
Four days after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said that “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present,” — i.e. Rice wasn’t making a definitive statement — is that “there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.” It was later reported that intelligence officials had information the day Rice made her remarks contradicting her assessment but she “wasn’t warned of their new doubts.”
Graham and other Obama critics maintained that the White House inserted this line — that the attack was spawned by an anti-Islam video protest — in Rice’s talking points for political reasons, as if to downplay that the Benghazi attack was solely a terrorist incident. As Republicans claimed at the time, admitting it was a terror attack (which Obama did the day after) would then undermine the White House’s campaign narrative that President Obama had significantly weakened Al Qaeda. But information later emerged that it was actually the CIA, not the White House, that made the assessment that there may have been a protest to the video that sparked the attack.
So what does all this have to do with Janet Yellen and Jeh Johnson? Absolutely nothing. “The fact is we had four dead Americans,” then-Secreatry of State Hillary Clinton pointed out to a Senate panel in January. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
The difference for Graham is that he is currently facing a primary challenger on his right flank and Benghazi scores high among the party’s conservative wing. Most of Congress isn’t all that interested in the issue anymore and the Senate’s top Republican hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to pursue the issue further either. But Graham will probably soldier on, despite the fact that the answers to his Benghazi questions have already been answered.