After a two-year investigation that cost $7 million, one of the most politically contentious chapters of Hillary Clinton’s career came to a close on Tuesday. House Republicans released their long-awaited report on the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Clinton was the secretary of state at the time. As a result, the investigation into the attack has been politically charged: It coincided with an election year in which Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee. House Republicans, however, have repeatedly denounced accusations that the investigation was a political ploy. On Tuesday, they continued to do so, highlighting their efforts to make sense of the government’s response to the attacks.
The “information should fundamentally change the way you view what happened in Benghazi, and there are recommendations made to make sure it does not happen again,” said Representative Trey Gowdy, who led the House Benghazi Committee, in a news conference.
The 800-page committee report did not find any evidence of wrongdoing against Clinton; rather, it alleges a lack of preparedness among administration officials the night of the attack.
The report recounts the reason for the U.S. presence in Benghazi and heightening security concerns in the region. Ambassador Gene A. Cretz told the committee “the center of the revolution was in Benghazi. It was the place that the opposition … had centered around as its, in effect, ‘capital.’” Stevens appeared to have had intentions to erect a permanent post: “According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a ‘deliverable’ for the secretary for his trip to Libya, and that ‘deliverable’ would be making the mission in Benghazi a permanent consulate.”
The report breaks down the government’s response to the attack, including details of conversations about possibly deploying troops to Tripoli, which was “not imminent.” Officials worried about the “Libyan reaction if uniformed US forces arrived in military aircraft” and the threat that troops might pose to diplomacy. One commander testified that “during the course of three hours, he and his Marines changed in and out of their uniforms four times.”
“Nothing could have reached Benghazi because nothing was ever headed to Benghazi,” Gowdy said on Tuesday. “No U.S. military asset was ever deployed to Benghazi despite the order of the secretary of defense at 7 that night.”
Another section of the report indicates there was confusion about U.S. allies in the region, according to an NBC report. Americans at the CIA annex were saved by Qaddafi loyalists, not militia groups who had an established relationship with the United States.
The panel conducted 81 new interviews and reviewed 75,000 pages of documents. Gowdy defended the $7 million expense on Tuesday, listing all the unknowns before the report. “Nobody has ever reported that nothing was headed to Benghazi. Nobody has ever reported that not a single wheel was turning to Libya. God knows no one ever reported who actually evacuated our folks,” he said, adding, “I’m proud of what we’ve found and I think it’s new.”
The 2012 Benghazi attacks have loomed over Clinton’s presidential campaign. Republicans questioned her response to the attacks during her tenure as secretary of state, along with her use of a private email server. Last year, Clinton testified before the House Benghazi Committee in a marathon session on both matters. On Tuesday, her campaign released a statement on the House Republican report. From Politico, Clinton’s spokesman, Brian Fallon, said:
The Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee are finishing their work in the same, partisan way that we’ve seen from them since the beginning. In refusing to issue its report on a bipartisan basis, the Committee is breaking from the precedent set by other Congressional inquiries into the Benghazi attacks.
House Democrats have also accused their counterparts of politicizing the attacks. On Monday, they pre-empted the release of the House Republican report by putting out their own 339-page report, saying the administration could not have saved the lives of those who died on September 11, 2012. Its adds, however, that “the State Department’s security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic responsibility.” Clinton did not personally deny requests for additional security in Benghazi, the report says.
Republican Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Pompeo of Kansas took one step further on Tuesday, releasing an addendum to the Benghazi report on Tuesday that specifically targets Clinton: “The American people expect that when the government sends our representatives into such dangerous places they receive adequate protection. Secretary Clinton paid special attention to Libya. She sent Ambassador Stevens there. Yet, in August 2012, she missed the last, clear chance to protect her people.”