Columnist Charles Krauthammer hit back at Democrats who have repeatedly claimed that the Benghazi hearing was a politicized attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton, calling their behavior Wednesday “frankly embarrassing” on “Special Report.”
“All they were doing is hurling political charges,” Krauthammer said. “Here were State Department officials, career officials who don’t have any ax to grind, who don’t have any political motive here, giving facts and the Democrats essentially ignored them and said, ‘It’s an attack on Hillary.’ Well, this didn’t start today with Hillary as the lead candidate in the next election … So to pretend this is all about Hillary and her presidential campaign as Democrats are doing is preposterous.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) used part of her time during the hearing to go on a defensive showcase for Clinton’s actions while Secretary of State.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) accused the media of engaging in an all-out campaign to smear public officials.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D., Penn.) said “there was no news today” at the hearing, yet the day featured whistleblowers who delivered new information on the timeline of the attack and the State Department’s subsequent response, including witness Gregory Hicks’ statement that he was stunned and embarrassed the Obama administration sent Susan Rice out to erroneously say the attack evolved from a spontaneous demonstration.
Indeed, there were many revelations during a day that featured emotional testimony from respected government officials. The Washington Free Beacon reported Hicks, the highest-ranking State Department official at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli on the night of the attack, told Congress that he was informed by the U.S. defense attaché at around 10:45 a.m. on the night of the attack that American forces could be on site in Benghazi within two to three hours:
Hicks’ testimony is the first time the public has heard from a State Department official who was on the ground in Libya on the night of the attack. He gave an emotional account of the attack that deviated in key ways from the administration’s narrative.
“I am a career public servant,” Hicks began. “Until the aftermath of Benghazi I loved every day of my job.”
Hicks said there was no point when anyone from the consulate reported that the assault was part of a demonstration over an anti-Islam video, as the Obama administration claimed at times following the attack.
Hicks, who spoke to Stevens by phone shortly after the siege began, said the ambassador’s last words to him were “Greg, we’re under attack.”
The Weekly Standard reporter Stephen Hayes also commented on Press Secretary Jay Carney’s claim the White House only made “stylistic and non-substantive” alterations to talking points about who was behind the Benghazi attack.
Hayes called the remarks “demonstrably untrue.”
Hayes reported last week on the evolution of the talking points and how the Obama administration deliberately obscured the clear involvement of al-Qaeda terrorists and the significance of the attack itself:
After the internal distribution, CIA officials amended that draft to include more information about the jihadist threat in both Egypt and Libya. “On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the [Cairo] Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy,” the agency had added by late afternoon. And: “The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and Libya.” But elsewhere, CIA officials pulled back. The reference to “Islamic extremists” no longer specified “Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda,” and the initial reference to “attacks” in Benghazi was changed to “demonstrations.”
The talking points were first distributed to officials in the interagency vetting process at 6:52 p.m. on Friday. Less than an hour later, at 7:39 p.m., an individual identified in the House report only as a “senior State Department official” responded to raise “serious concerns” about the draft. That official, whom The Weekly Standard has confirmed was State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, worried that members of Congress would use the talking points to criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
In an attempt to address those concerns, CIA officials cut all references to Ansar al Sharia and made minor tweaks. But in a follow-up email at 9:24 p.m., Nuland wrote that the problem remained and that her superiors—she did not say which ones—were unhappy. The changes, she wrote, did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,” and State Department leadership was contacting National Security Council officials directly.
“We’ve seen the changes that were made,” Hayes said. “They were dramatic changes that came out of this meeting, the deputies committee meeting, top Obama administration officials on the morning of September 15. They took out references to Islamic extremists. The talking points in that meeting were basically rewritten and to a certain extent, the night before by political appointees of the White House.”