The House Intelligence Committee released a report late Friday concluding, after a two-year investigation, that there was no wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the aftermath of the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.
If anybody thought South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was going to take that lying down, he disabused them of the notion Sunday morning, calling the finding of the committee “full of crap” and “a complete bunch of garbage.” For good measure, he said the House Intelligence Committee, run by Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) “is doing a lousy job of policing their own,” meaning that he believes the panel has failed to hold the intelligence community accountable.
Graham’s comments came less than 48 hours after the report was released. Among its findings are that there was no effort to change “talking points” prepared for the National Security Adviser Susan Rice spin the situation to the administration’s political advantage. The administration originally claimed that the attack grew out of a protest – a claim that Rice repeated, and which was later determined to be incorrect.
It also knocked down claims that aid to the personnel in the compound was purposefully delayed or was denied outright – the so-called “stand down order” that many have accused the Obama administration of issuing. Four Americans were killed in the assault, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The information in the committee’s report was not entirely new. The general findings were reported as long ago as August.
Graham, whose attacks on the administration over Benghazi have been relentless, appeared on CNN Sunday morning and wasted little time going after the House Intelligence Committee and its findings.
“I think the report’s full of crap, quite frankly,” he told host Gloria Borger.
He insisted that he had personally been lied to by intelligence officials, and that the committee report was transmitting similar lies on behalf of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Asked by Borger if he was accusing the committee of deliberately lying, Graham said, “I’m saying the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job of policing their own. I’m saying that anybody’s who’s followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA Deputy Director did not come forward to tell congress about his involvement in changing the talking points.”
Graham said that the intelligence agencies are just trying to cover for themselves, and said the committee’s determination that the CIA and other agencies had not misled lawmakers and the public is a complete bunch of garbage.”
The Search for a Conspiracy
There have now been eight separate Congressional investigations of Benghazi, none of which have produced support for Graham’s contention that there were widespread failures within the administration in its response to the attack and that there was an effort to cover those failures up after the fact.
Graham said the problem is that the various investigating committees were all “stovepiping” their information – meaning that they were not looking at the full picture. (Although, the House Oversight and Investigations Committee had broad latitude to seek information from wherever investigators saw fit.)
“The people who have been looking at Benghazi in a stovepipe fashion have not come up with what I think is a reasonable explanation for all the shenanigans and the lack of being prepared on 9/11,” Graham said.
Graham praised the ongoing effort of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, led by Rep. Try Gowdy (R-SC), which was charged by Speaker John Boehner with conducting another investigation of the attack and its aftermath. On Saturday, he told Fox News that he hopes that when Republicans take over the Senate in January that GOP senators will be allowed to join the select committee’s investigation.
In a final swipe at his House colleagues, he said, “As for our friends on the Intel Committee of the House, I do not buy the idea that the agency did not mislead the Congress because I was there when they misled me.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN immediately after Graham.
“It reminds me of the lawyer’s maxim,” said Schiff. “If the law’s not on your side, emphasize the facts; if the facts aren’t on your side, bang on the table. I think we heard Lindsey banging on the table quite a bit this morning.
“This was a two-year, exhaustive investigation,” Schiff continued. “It was released by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee; it had the support of all the Republicans and Democrats on the committee. It is designed to be the definitive word on what happened from the intelligence community’s point of view. Nothing that Lindsey’s said at all contradicts what’s in that report. Calling it crap doesn’t change the fact that it was an exhaustive and objective review.”
Schiff said that the circumstances of the report’s release suggested that the Republicans on the committee saw it as an exoneration of the Obama administration.
“Why is this report being released on the Friday before Thanksgiving?” he asked.
Borger asked him if he thought the GOP was trying to hide the committee’s findings.
“Absolutely,” he said. “When you spend two years doing the definitive report you want to trumpet it to high heaven. You don’t want to bury it on the Friday before Thanksgiving.”
Schiff also repeated what many Democrats have claimed – that the Republican obsession with Benghazi is less about a accountability or justice and more about embarrassing Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time of the attack.
“If Hillary Clinton were not a likely candidate for President, I think this investigation would have been over a long time ago,” said Schiff.
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