National Security

Pickering: Whistleblower Testimony ‘Reinforced’ ARB Conclusions on Benghazi

ARB panel leader defends decision to not interview Clinton, calling her 'not involved'

Accountability Review Board Chief Thomas Pickering strongly defended the much-criticized Benghazi investigation by the ARB, despite testimony last week by three whistleblowers that contradicted statements from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials and also revealed internal State Department efforts to obstruct congressional inquiries into the attack.

Pickering said the testimony did not change anything but rather had "reinforced" the investigation's conclusions.

"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski pressed him on why he did not interview Clinton, and in spite of testimony by Gregory Hicks that Clinton was briefed at 2 a.m. the night of the attack about the search for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the need to evacuate the consulate, Pickering still declared her to be "not involved" even while praising her for taking responsibility on several occasions for consulate security.

"I've been very clear on this that we had a very clear and, I think, very obvious, at the time, indication of precisely where the decisions were made and where they were reviewed," Pickering said. "She was not involved in it, and therefore, there was no reason to question her on that line and there were no other questions that we had in mind. So, I don't believe at this stage anything has changed by the testimony last week. In fact, I think it's been reinforced."

The State Department's Office of Inspector General is investigating the special internal panel that Pickering led, which initially concluded systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels" well below Clinton were to blame for the "inadequate" security at Benghazi.

Pickering also was asked if he had any unanswered questions, but he continued to insist there was nothing to this point that would change his investigation's conclusions.

"I believe that we, on the basis of the people we interviewed, over 100, and the pages of testimony and the video films that we saw, did as responsible a job as could be done under the circumstances," he said. "It would not be right for me to say that nothing will ever turn up, that, in fact, would produce something different. What I will say is from what I have heard and what I have seen and what I have read since our report came out, i see nothing at this stage that would in any material way change the conclusions that I reached in that report."

Lawmakers have threatened to subpoena Clinton in the wake of revelations that talking points prepared for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice were edited to downplay any role terrorists played in the attack, The Hill reports:

GOP lawmakers have vowed to continue probing the attack, arguing that more could have been done to protect the Americans at the facility, and that the administration wasn’t truthful about the nature of the attack from the onset because it was more concerned with election-year politics. The current and former State Department officials testifying last week said they knew immediately that the attack was terrorism, even while talking points from the administration described the attack as a spontaneous protest.

The fact that those talking points were edited has further undermined the administration’s arguments.