South Carolina senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham slammed Hillary Clinton’s management of the State Department on Wednesday, saying that other Americans could be sent to jail for running organizations in a similar fashion.
"I don’t know how in the world she can avoid being held accountable for the way she ran the State Department," said Graham, during a meeting with Washington Free Beacon reporters on Wednesday morning. "The sleazy nature of these relationships, and her AWOL when it came to taking care of the people under her charge—being AWOL regarding Benghazi."
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Graham said he had concerns about Clinton’s continued relationship with long-time confidante Sidney Blumenthal, who passed on faulty intelligence from his private intelligence network to the Secretary of State.
"I have zero respect for the man," said Graham, noting that Blumenthal was accused of spreading false rumors to discredit Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s. "There’s a reason the State Department wouldn’t hire him. For her to continue to associate with this guy says a lot about her."
Graham said he also found it troubling that Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills was simultaneously serving on the board of New York University’s UAE-funded Abu Dhabi campus, earning $198,000 as NYU’s general counsel and working for Clinton at the State Department. The Free Beacon first reported on Mills’ overlapping positions on Wednesday.
"What kind of vetting system do you have over there?" said Graham. "Somebody had to sign off on this. Either [Clinton’s] okay with this, or completely in the dark."
The Republican candidate also blasted Clinton for her use of a private email server, saying that if she had been in the Bush administration there would be much more serious consequences.
"If Dick Cheney had done any of this. If Dick Cheney had set up a server in his house," said Graham. "If Dick Cheney’s lawyers had gone through the process and said ‘No, we cleansed the thing, trust us, we did it right,’ there’d be all hell to pay."
The senator said Clinton’s handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was the biggest black mark on her State Department record.
He criticized the former secretary of state for failing to address security concerns at the Benghazi compound in the months leading up to the attack, despite requests from staff and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens.
"What do you have to do as an ambassador in her State Department to get help? Do you have to take an ad out in the Washington Post?" said Graham. "They did everything they could do to request additional help, and every request, for the most part, was denied."
"I think she’s carrying more bags than anybody should be able to carry for President of the United States," he added.
In addition to Clinton, Graham said he also thought fellow Republican senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul would have significant baggage on national security issues going into the race.
He said Paul’s recent filibuster to protest NSA surveillance hurt his standing with senate colleagues, and described it as an "unseemly" fundraising ploy.
"The worst thing that can happen to you in the Senate is people think you don’t know what you’re doing," said Graham. "Rand, I think, exhibited a detachment from the reality that exists in terms of the [national security] threats."
"People thought he did it for political reasons," Graham added. "He’s out there on the floor doing a filibuster and raising money. And I think that was unseemly. I think he tremendously hurt himself in terms of being seen as a colleague who is serious and knowledgeable."