CREDIT: Evan Vucci/ AP
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee and one of the leading voices in attacking the Obama administration over its response to the Benghazi attack, completely ignored a recent Congressional investigation’s conclusions in the name of attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking at a fundraising dinner in Concord, NH on Monday night, Issa was asked about his committee’s efforts to get to the bottom of just what occurred the night of Sept. 11, 2012 when a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya came under attack. One persistent theory among conservatives has been that at some point during the night, a “stand down” order was given to the military, preventing them from rescuing the Americans under attack. “We need to have an answer of when the Secretary of Defense had assets that he could have begun spinning up,” Issa said at the fundraiser during a question and answer segment. “Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset?”
“I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand down order for two military personnel,” Issa continued. “That order is undeniable.”
But there is one group of people that would deny Issa’s claims: his Republican colleagues in the House Armed Services Committee. Just last week, the committee’s majority released their report on the Pentagon’s actions during the night of the attack, which explicitly denied the existence of the order Issa claims happened. “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi,” the report says within its first few pages.
It appears that Issa hasn’t read the rest of his compatriots’ report just yet either, judging by the rest of his remarks. “They were told not to get on – get off the airplane and kind of standby – and they’re going to characterize it wasn’t stand down,” Issa said, referring to the Obama administration. “But when we’re done with Benghazi, the real question is, was there a stand down order to Leon Panetta or did he just not do his job? Was there a stand down order from the President who said he told them to use their resources and they didn’t use them? Those questions have to be answered.”
Luckily for him, those questions already have been answered. “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack,” the report concludes.
When the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog asked Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill about the report, he responded that Issa was asking a “very straightforward question” in blaming Clinton. He also pointed out that the HASC report did not “draw a conclusion about whether the State Department sought to discourage, limit, or constrain a military response,” thus making whether or not Clinton ordered a stand down that never happened a legitimate line of inquiry.
Issa has been at the forefront of GOP attacks against the Obama administration over Benghazi, using his position to launch hearing after hearing over the situation, despite never producing the smoking gun he insists exists. Those repeated attacks over the past year and a half have yet to gain much traction among the American people. He’s also gotten in trouble with his Democrat counterparts for taking secret trips to Benghazi without informing them.
And highlighting Clinton’s role in the response is likely to become more frequent as the primary season for the 2016 presidential election approaches. Clinton is described as the presumptive front runner of the race, and is already the subject of polling about voter beliefs about Benghazi. In late December, in the face of a New York Times report on the attack, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) insinuated that a coordinated rollout of news stories was occurring to smooth the path for Clinton’s eventual nomination. (HT: Oliver Willis)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, wrote to Issa on Friday, calling on him to apologize for his remarks:
“The definition of treason is the betrayal of allegiance owed to one’s country, and your statements seem to accuse former Secretary Clinton of this offense. You suggest that Secretary Clinton directed the Secretary of Defense of the United States to intentionally withhold military assistance that may have saved the lives of one of her own ambassadors and three other brave Americans serving their country. Your accusations are beyond the pale, and you should immediately retract them and issue a public apology.”