Benghazi scandal management

Last night John commented on the behavior of the Democrats during the House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday on Benghazi. Democratic committee members walked out on the testimony of Patricia Smith and Charles Woods, the mother and father respectively of two of the men who were killed by terrorists in the Benghazi assault. John observed that the Democrats on the committee didn’t even have the decency to listen to what these victims of the Obama administration’s gross negligence had to say.

Why would the Democrats do that? They would say that they were protesting the politicization of Benghazi. Their thesis is that looking back at events in order to assess fault and allocate responsibility is somehow illegitimate. Assessing fault and allocating responsibility is political in this case because fault and disgrace run up a chain of Democratic officeholders ending in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The thesis that applies to account for the Democrats’s behavior in this case is the one from A Few Good Men: They can’t handle the truth.

John focused on the second half of the House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday. The first half of the hearing was previewed in good stories by Sharyl Attkisson and Josh Rogin earlier this week and also deserves attention.

Following Benghazi then Secretary of State Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board to conduct a a phony baloney investigation leading to phony baloney findings to protect Clinton and Barack Obama in their phony baloney jobs. The ARB never got around to interviewing the four mid-level employees it found at fault in connection with the Benghazi assault. The unclassified version of the ARB report is posted online here.

The unwritten mission of the ARB was to designate a few mid-level employees to serve as scapegoats for more senior officials including Clinton and Obama. The ARB duly designated four such employees who were placed on administrative leave on the basis of the ARB report findings. Secretary Kerry has now (rightly) reinstated all four employees who were disciplined as a result of the ARB report. I wrote about the reinstatement of Ronald Maxwell here.

The first half of the House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday was devoted to the ARB. ARB leaders (former Ambassador) Thomas Pickering and (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) Michael Mullen appeared before the committee as witnesses. How Hillary Clinton got these distinguished gentlemen to lend their good names to the ARB farce is beyond me.

The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes attended the hearing. Steve reports that the testimony validated the skepticism of ARB critics and raised new questions about the independence of its work as well as the reliability of their conclusions. Steve concludes that the testimony of Pickering and Mullen discredited the ARB. Among the revelations in the testimony at yesterday’s hearing:

*Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handpicked the two leaders of the ARB who were given the job of investigating her department.

*Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff and senior counselor to Secretary Clinton, was intimately involved with the ARB panel from the beginning. She called the leaders at Clinton’s behest to ask them to serve, she was briefed regularly on the investigation as it unfolded and she received a draft copy of the report before it was finalized.

*Several senior Clinton advisers were provided draft copies of the ARB report before it was released to the public.

*The vice chairman of the ARB testified that he called Mills to warn her that an impending appearance of Charlene Lamb before Congress would be problematic for the State Department. Lamb had done poorly in her interview with the ARB, Mullen said, and he called Mills because he was worried that a poor performance before Congress would cause problems for the State Department and its leadership. When Representative Jim Jordan asked Mullen if he would have placed the call to Mills if Lamb had performed well, he said no.

*The chairman of the panel acknowledged at least one instance in which language in the report was softened after an early draft was sent to Clinton and her top aides. “The draft, as I believe it went to her, said the security posture was grossly inadequate for Benghazi, period. And we made the editorial correction recognizing that there was certainly a very real point that ‘grossly’ was probably not applicable to Benghazi in light of the changes that the State Department had made, but it was clearly applicable to dealing with the specific circumstances of the attack.”

*The vice chairman testified in his deposition that the ARB received “very specific tasking from Secretary Clinton on her expectations with respect to this board” and that nobody on the board had any input on the scope of their work.

*The panel was largely staffed by current and former State Department officials and worked out of State Department offices.

*The ARB did not speak with nine key military officials on the ground in Libya or Germany who were deeply involved in the US response to the attacks. Among those who was never interviewed: Lt. Colonel Steven Gibson, who was on the ground in Tripoli and whom State Department official Greg Hicks has testified was on the receiving end of the “stand-down” order that Obama officials have repeatedly disclaimed.

*Although the ARB did not interview Secretary Clinton as part of its investigation, they provided her with a two-hour briefing about the details of the report before it was finalized and released to the public.

*The board did not interview either Cheryl Mills or Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, another close adviser to Clinton.

*None of the interviews the ARB conducted were recorded in any fashion – no audio, no video, no court reporter. The only record of those sessions is in notes taken by a staff member. According to the vice chairman: “The staff would put a summary of the interview together. We would – the members would be able to review that summary shortly after the interview.” (Those summaries and the notes that produced them have not been provided to Congress).

*The ARB did not investigate the Obama administration’s public response to the attack or the role that senior State Department officials played in shaping that narrative. That response included the highly misleading claim that the attacks had come as a reaction to an anti-Islam video and many other claims that were later shown to be false. Emails between top State Department officials and others in the Obama administration, first reported by TWS last spring, revealed that several top State Department officials were involved in crafting the administration’s post-attack talking points. And Susan Rice, then US Ambassador to the United Nations, a top State Department official, famously blamed the video in her appearances on the Sunday talk shows shortly after the attack. The ARB wasn’t interested.

Steve begins and ends his report with comments regarding the media’s lack of interest in the proceedings. If the media were not a Democratic protection racket, of course, this would all be big news. But they are and it’s not.

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