Republicans’ Benghazi goose chase comes up empty

Source: Washington Post

Author: Editorial Board

Emphasis Mine

ON THE night of Sept. 11 and morning of Sept. 12, 2012, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Benghazi, Libya, came under attack by terrorists armed with automatic weapons, mortars and fuel to start fires. By the next morning, four brave Americans lay dead — Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; his aide, Sean Smith; and two former Navy SEALs providing security, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. It was a horrific crime whose perpetrators remain for the most part unidentified and unpunished — and a setback for U.S. foreign policy in the wider Middle East.

As if all of that weren’t bad enough, the Benghazi attacks mutated into yet another of the partisan dramas that U.S. politicians — in this case Republican politicians — generate in lieu of constructive policymaking. Unable to turn the events to their advantage when they occurred, during the 2012 election campaign, Republicans have persisted in attempting to milk the “scandal” for the past four years. They have done so even though repeated previous investigations — including by a GOP-led House intelligence panel — found nothing to contradict the Obama administration’s basic account. Diplomatic security, intelligence and other preparation were inadequate in hindsight; but the violence in Benghazi was over before any effective U.S. military intervention could have been organized. Government failures before, during and after the attacks, such as they were, resulted from a combination of understandable confusion and good-faith mistakesnot conspiracy, coverup, politics or deliberate “abandonment” of U.S. personnel, as the Republican right has so often and so feverishly insinuated.

And now, after two years and $7 million, comes Tuesday’s final report of a Republican-led House select committee, which adds exactly nothing substantial to the story. It’s true that the panel’s investigation did, along the way, help trigger the revelation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, which is a real issue. On the most sensitive point, however — Ms. Clinton’s personal culpability for what happened in Benghazi — the committee came up empty. Its report contains dozens of pages on the now-famous early statements from the administration implying the attacks were motivated by Arab-world reaction to an anti-Islamic video on the Internet. But even this exhaustive review produces no proof that this messaging resulted from a politically motivated attempt to play down terrorism, as opposed to a genuine factual dispute among State Department and CIA officials, compounded by faulty verbal formulations by then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other hastily briefed administration spokesmen.

There’s much to be learned from the fiasco in Benghazi and from the wider breakdown in Libya that followed the U.S.-aided overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. President Obama did contribute to this mess by his refusal to support the new post Gaddafi government’s attempt to build security; he and his administration, Ms. Clinton included, can rightly be held accountable for this mistaken policy. Yet for reasons best known only to themselves, Republicans have insisted on pursuing their own more inflammatory and conspiratorial version of events. Maybe someone should investigate that.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-benghazi-goose-chase-comes-up-empty/2016/06/28/b70addfc-3d5c-11e6-84e8-1580c7db5275_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

Clinton Emails, Planned Parenthood: How Press Keeps Enabling GOP’s Orchestrated Distractions

The press keeps rolling with whatever the right manufactures.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Eric Boehlert

Emphasis Mine

Within the span of just twelve hours this week, multiple Republican-sponsored political pursuits partially unraveled in plain sight.

The long-running investigations were the Benghazi select committee and the related probe into Hillary Clinton’s private emails, and Republicans’ crusade targeting Planned Parenthood. Journalists would be wise to take note of the pattern of plain deception and ask themselves if they want to keep sponsoring these planned distractions.

The first to crumble was the right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which was launched this summer and sponsored by Fox News and the Republican Party. Creating a whirlwind of controversy and endless media attention, the undercover sting operation by anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress was even elevated by some to be pressing enough to shut down the federal government.

Tuesday’s Congressional hearing about defunding Planned Parenthood was to be the centerpiece of the right wing’s orchestrated attack campaign. The problem was that in recent weeks we’ve learned the gotcha videos at the center of the campaign were deceptively edited. And so far six statewide investigations have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. That meant the Congressional production was likely destined for failure.

“The entire hearing was premised on a series of mischaracterizations,” reported The New Yorker. Republicans were left with little but bouts of bullying in an effort to intimidate Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards as she testified.

It didn’t work. So after ten weeks, the sustained attack against Planned Parenthood produced no tangible evidence of wrongdoing and no serious damage to the organization. (Of course, despite their failures so far, Republicans are now reportedly considering creating “a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood.”)

Then just hours after the hearing completed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who’s now in line to become the next Republican Speaker of the House, brazenly bragged on Sean Hannity’s Fox program about how the Benghazi select committee was responsible for damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. To which Hannity responded, “That’s something good, I give you credit for that.”

With one brief Fox appearance, McCarthy laid bare the facts about both the never-ending Benghazi investigation and the related, still-churning email witch hunt: They’re both built on politics, plain and simple. The Republicans created a Benghazi select committee in order to try to take out the Democratic frontrunner for president. Period. That’s the story.

Sadly, the busted Planned Parenthood, Benghazi and email diversions simply represent the latest creations from the GOP distraction model. Conservatives have been using it, on and off, for two decades — and the model works best when the Beltway press plays along. It works best if the Beltway press pretends virtually every other Republican-produced scandal pursuit hasn’t been a bust.

Many of the same Republicans who have spearheaded the dishonest Planned Parenthood probe are the same ones leading the charge on Benghazi and the email story. And the press continues to breathlessly quote them as they try to hype these supposed scandals.

So yes, much of the press has been culpable in the latest Republican distractions since day one. In fact, the press has been playing the same lapdog role for well over twenty years when it comes to endlessly hyping and even marketing orchestrated Republican distractions. These self-contained circus productions that suggest all kinds of Democratic wrongdoing are long on conspiracy theories but short on facts, and leave pundits and reporters breathlessly chronicling the possible downside for Democrats.

One reason these Groundhog Day scenes keeping play out, again and again and again, is due to the fact too many journalists are absolutely wed to the very simple definition of what constitutes news: What are conservatives angry about?

Given that kind of carte blanche to create news cycles, Republicans and conservatives in the media have taken full advantage and have settled into a predictable pattern: Manufacture distractions designed to make life miserable for Democratic leaders; force Democrats to use up energy and resources to swat down endless unproven allegations, and spawn waves of media “gotcha” hysteria fueled by disingenuous leaks.

But here’s the thing: it’s exhausting. It’s disheartening. And it’s a colossal waste of time and energy. But this is how the right wing plays politics in America and the D.C. press has shown an unbridled enthusiasm to want to play along; to want to abandon common sense in order to chase GOP-designated shiny objects for weeks, months or sometimes years on end. And then do it all over again when the current distraction disintegrates.

The pattern began in earnest during the 1990s when Republicans became obsessed with personally pursuing the Clintons. Remember the dubious Clinton pardon distraction, the parting gifts distraction, and of course Ken Starr’s $80 million Inspector Javert routine.

Charles Pierce at Esquire recently detailed that decade’s signature string of orchestrated GOP obfuscations:

To use a more relevant, example, TravelGate was a distraction. FileGate was a distraction. The disgusting use of Vince Foster’s suicide was a distraction. Castle Grande was a distraction. The cattle futures were a distraction. The billing records were a distraction. Webster Hubbell’s billing practices were a distraction. Hell, the entire Whitewater part of the Whitewater affair was basically a distraction, as was the pursuit of Bill Clinton’s extracurricular love life. Kathleen Willey was a distraction. The monkeywrenching of a settlement in the Paula Jones case was to make sure that the distraction that was that case survived. All of these were distractions created to make it difficult for a Democratic president to govern, and the reason I know that is because the people creating distractions were not shy about admitting what they were all about to each other.

Over time, the vast majority of those endless Clinton allegations were proven to be hollow. Yet aided by some regrettable journalism, the relentless scandal culture took hold and managed to damage to the Clinton administration. Indeed, the whole point of the GOP’s Clinton distraction model was to create the infrastructure to hound the Democrats.

With President Obama’s inauguration, the old model was unpacked, but this time with Fox News playing a much more aggressive role. The results have been an endless parade of diversions and hoaxes designed, in various shapes and sizes, to hamstring a Democratic administration and, more recently, to damage the leading Democratic candidate for 2016.

Here’s just a handful of manufactured distractions:

*ACORN

*Benghazi stand down order

*”Climategate”

*Clinton Cash

*Department of Education official Kevin Jennings

*Economist Jonathan Gruber’s Obamacare comment

*Food stamps

*Gibson Guitar raid

*New Black Panthers

*Shirley Sherrod

*Voter fraud

As Media Matters can attest, virtually none of the often-hysterical allegations attached to those distractions were ever proven to be true. Instead, the pursuits imploded under their own weight. Yet too often, these supposed scandals broke out of the Fox News bubble and became mainstream “news.”

So when’s the press going to get the message and stop enabling these charades?

Eric Boehlert is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America and the author of “Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over for Bush.” He can be reached ateboehlert@aol.com.

See:

Hillary 1, GOP nil…

Source:bluenationreview.com

Author:Shawn Drury

Emphasis Mine

Despite what Republican presidential candidates may say, Hillary Clinton did not do anything illegal with her emails while Secretary of State. And she’s definitely not being investigated for doing anything illegal.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department responded to a request by a conservative group that wanted to review messages Clinton may have sent about a video the State Department broadcast in Pakistan. The response read, in part:

“There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server. Under policies issue both by the National Archives and Records Administration and the State Department, individual officers and employees are permitted and expected to exercise judgment to determine what constitutes a federal record.”

One would think this would close the door on any subsequent inquiries, but despite facts to the contrary, Republicans continue to deny climate change and promote conspiracy theories about Benghazi. As such, the Justice Department’s findings won’t stop a senate committee from calling former Clinton aides to testify about how she managed her email.

Thank goodness they’re focusing on the important issues of the day.

See:http://bluenationreview.com/justice-department-finds-in-hillary-clintons-favor-on-email-question/

House Intel Committee Finds No Benghazi Scandal; Will Boehner Ignore Its Findings?

House Speaker John Boehner faces a choice: Either he can accept the findings of a responsible, Republican committee chair, or cynically allow a kangaroo court to proceed.

Source: American Prospect

Author:Ari Rabin-Havt

According to Representative Mike Thompson, Democrat of California, a report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

Late last week, before Congress headed out of Washington for August recess, the body voted to declassify the document.

After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House. In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury.

House Speaker John Boehner is now left with a choice. Will he allow Rep. Trey Gowdy’s kangaroo court, formulated in the guise of a select committee, proceed with its Benghazi investigation, covering ground already delved into not only by the House Intelligence Committee, but by the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Accountability Review Board and numerous other investigatory panels?

Doing so would now be nothing short of an explicit vote of no confidence in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican. What will Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, discover that two years of investigations by his GOP colleagues could not? If the House leadership views the Intelligence Committee as that incompetent, shouldn’t its chairman be replaced?

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported in May,

“There is deep unease within the Republican leadership that the select committee, which has yet to announce a schedule of hearings, could backfire, and badly. Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives. Investigate and uncover previously-hidden secrets, and it makes all of the other Republican led panels that dug into Benghazi seem like Keystone Kops.”

But what is even more clear now than it was a few weeks ago is that, for Boehner, the appointment of the Benghazi Select Committee has nothing to do with finding the truth about the attack that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with those of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. It was theater—and bad theater at that.

Attempting to placate the ideological fringes of the Republican conference by using a taxpayer-funded investigation is at best the most cynical form of politics. To continue the charade after a Republican chairman releases findings that undermine the very core of your investigation is outright fraud.

But the Benghazi Select Committee will keep on moving forward. And it will not end after the 2014 elections. If Hillary Clinton chooses to run, the committee will become a principal tool in the conservative movement’s campaign apparatus against her, holding hearings designed to obscure the truth and smear Clinton during the least opportune moments of the electoral cycle.

And if Clinton is elected in 2016, there is little doubt the work of the committee will continue as long as Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives. Why surrender a taxpayer-funded campaign attack dog, especially one endowed by Congress with subpoena power?

Emphasis Mine

See: http://prospect.org/article/house-intel-committee-finds-no-benghazi-scandal-will-boehner-ignore-its-findings

Benghazi Interview: Pickering Dissects Congressional Follies, Media Coverage, And ‘Cover-Up’ Charges

Source: National Memo

Author: Joe Conason

No doubt the degraded quality of congressional oversight astonishes Thomas Pickering, the distinguished American diplomat who oversaw the State Department’s Benghazi review board — although he tries not to say so too directly. For his demanding and difficult effort  – only the most recent in a long history of public service under both Republican and Democratic administrations — Pickering has found himself under sustained attack by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the excitable partisan who chairs the House Government Reform Committee.

Last Friday, Issa subpoenaed Pickering to deliver a taped deposition to the committee behind closed doors, without offering a public chance to answer the charges already lodged by Republicans against the Accountability Review Board report authored by Pickering and retired admiral Mike Mullen.

Immediately prior to this latest skirmish, Pickering spoke with The National Memo about the ARB report, political maneuvering by the administration’s adversaries, and media coverage of the Benghazi “scandal.”  Asked whether he had ever experienced or seen anything resembling Issa’s conduct, Pickering said, “No, I haven’t.…I suspect that on this particular issue, this guy [Issa] is driven by whatever will maximize his capability to be tough on the administration. This seems to be one effort he’s kind of landed on to make that happen. But I’m only guessing here,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pickering hasn’t noticed much attention being given on Capitol Hill to the extensive recommendations that he and Mullen made to improve security in dangerous posts around the world. “I can’t tell you whether anyone [in Congress] has sat down and examined them and wanted to have hearings on [the recommendations]” – instead of the notorious “talking points” developed by the White House last September. “So far I haven’t seen any evidence of that.”

For Pickering, the subpoena issued by Issa must be especially confusing. Ever since the Government Reform committee announced its planned hearings on Benghazi last winter, its leadership has repeatedly failed to establish a time when the review board chairman  — perhaps the most important witness – could testify. Although at first Pickering says he thought they were “genuinely interested” in getting his testimony, he became “increasingly less inclined” to appear before the committee “as the thing became more politicized.”

Before the May 8 hearing, he made a final effort to arrange to testify publicly. But via the White House and the State Department, he learned that his presence was not desired. Before Issa issued his subpoena to Pickering on Friday, he and Mullen had sent a letter requesting an opportunity to testify publicly – and said that they are “not inclined to give testimony in a closed hearing before that [happens].”

Having listened to Issa and others take potshots at him, Mullen, and their report for several weeks, Pickering wants to rebut some of the misinformation they have propagated, for the record.  He wants to address claims that the military “could have relieved or in fact changed the situation by sending men or equipment or both the night of the event” – and specifically assertions by Gregory Hicks, the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, that four Special Forces soldiers should have been dispatched to Benghazi from Tripoli. Pickering says those four officers would have arrived in Benghazi too late to help and were needed in Tripoli anyway to treat the wounded, who were brought there after the Benghazi attack.

“The third question that has come up,” said Pickering, “is why we didn’t investigate the Secretary of State” and her deputies. The “simple and straightforward answer” is that “they played no role in the decision making which was relevant to the preparations for meeting the security crisis in Benghazi,” and the role they did play on the night of September 11 “was fairly clearly portrayed to us by other people who attended the meetings, and we had no questions about it. We thought that what they did made sense and fit exactly what should have been done.”

What Pickering may mention, if and when he does testify in public, is the role of Congress, which he considers primarily responsible for underfunding the protection of diplomatic posts abroad. Fortunately, legislative idiocy has not prevented the redirection of almost $1.5 billion in funds to improve security in dozens of posts, both physically and with additional security officers and Marine guards.

Aside from the weak oversight of Congress, Pickering also seems critical of the media coverage of Benghazi.  In preparing to chair the Accountability Review Board, Pickering said, he “asked for, received, and read all of the press reporting that the State Department could find and put together for me, covering the events in Benghazi and the aftermath, from the initial attack right through to the day we submitted our report.”

He undertook this required reading because “I thought there would be useful ideas, leads, analyses that had to be taken into account.  What I found in general was a very significant amount of wild, and I think fictionalized, made-up kind of information…

And in effect much of this alleged a kind of betrayal of those people, in one way or another, all of which I thought bordered on Pulitzer Prize creative fiction but didn’t bear any relationship to what we were able to determine, both from the documentary evidence, from the extensive film footage that we had an opportunity to review carefully, and of course the interviews we had with people who were on the spot.” Indeed, Pickering believes that the ARB report is “the best compilation I’ve seen of what actually took place.”

Pickering won’t comment on the “talking points” controversy, which wasn’t relevant to the ARB investigation. But he resents broader allegations by the Republicans and their allies in the media — in particular “the allegation that I would be engaged in a cover-up…I hope people feel that I’m a more honest and hopefully more dedicated public servant than that. “

“Our interest was to do everything we could to find out what happened,” Pickering said, “and then on the basis of that [investigation] to make as clear recommendations as we could to help the State Department and other agencies so that it wouldn’t happen again. That was our motive, that was the driver, and that’s where we went. Any effort to cover up would have been a betrayal… We did everything we could in terms of the national interest in saving future lives.”  He believes it is vital to defend the credibility of the report and prevent it from being undermined. “That’s why I’m interested in talking to the American public now, because I think the report is a good report. And so far I haven’t heard anything that I believe we didn’t consider carefully.”

As for his critics, “I would hope they would read the report. If they have, maybe they need to read it again.” He laughed. “Both Mike Mullen and I believe that it’s important that we have this opportunity, either through Chairman Issa or some other committee, to deal with the people who have concerns about the report and tell them how we were thinking and why we reached the conclusions we did.”

Audio of the interview can be heard here.

Emphasis mine

see:http://www.nationalmemo.com/benghazi-interview-pickering-dissects-congressional-follies-media-coverage-and-cover-up-charges/

 

Republicans Altered Benghazi Emails, CBS News Report Claims

Source: Huff Post

Author: Chris Gentlviso

“One day after The White House released 100 pages of Benghazi emails, a report has surfaced alleging that Republicans released a set with altered text.

CBS News reported Thursday that leaked versions sent out by the GOP last Friday had visible differences than Wednesday’s official batch. Two correspondences that were singled out in the report came from National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

The GOP version of Rhodes’ comment, according to CBS News: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

The White House email: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”

The GOP version of Nuland’s comment, according to CBS News: The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”

The White House email: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

The news parallels a Tuesday CNN report which initially introduced the contradiction between what was revealed in a White House Benghazi email version, versus what was reported in media outlets. On Monday, Mother Jones noted that the Republicans’ interim report included the correct version of the emails, signaling that more malice and less incompetence may have been at play with the alleged alterations.

In that April interim report on Benghazi (which Buck noted), the House Republicans cited these emails (in footnotes 56 and 57) to note an important point: “State Department emails reveal senior officials had ‘serious concerns’ about the talking points, because Members of Congress might attack the State Department for ‘not paying attention to Agency warnings’ about the growing threat in Benghazi.”

Despite the White House’s Wednesday move to release emails, Republicans continued to call for more information on Thursday.

“While these hundred are good and they shed light on what happened, we have nearly 25,000 that they haven’t released,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox News on Thursday.”

 

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/republicans-benghazi-emails_n_3289428.html