The never-ending political spat over Benghazi flared up again this week as Republicans made another round of allegations that the Obama administration covered up material facts about the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead. The White House again accused the GOP of waging a partisan witch hunt.
But in a new twist, the traditional partisan battle lines scrambled on Thursday when one House GOP chairman appeared to directly contradict claims by Darrell Issa, the face of the years-long Benghazi investigations, about alleged wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Earlier this year on Feb. 17, Rep. Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Republicans at a New Hampshire fundraiser he suspects Clinton ordered the Defense Department to “stand down” instead of help the Americans whose lives were at risk in the Benghazi attacks.
“I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable,” said Issa, who went on to hold hearings on the matter as Democrats angrily accused him of lobbying unsubstantiated allegations.
On Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) released a statement that contradicted Issa’s insinuation and instead suggested Clinton’s State Department responded quickly to the attacks.
“The Armed Services Committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents. We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond,” McKeon said.
McKeon — who is retiring from Congress after this year — called into question the reliability of Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell’s testimony after he suggested before Issa’s oversight committee Thursday that the State Department didn’t quickly deploy resources in response to the attacks.
While saying Lovell’s testimony affirmed his beliefs that the Obama administration failed to stop the attack in time, McKeon said, “BG Lovell did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack, nor did he offer specific courses of action not taken.”
A spokesman for Issa didn’t immediately return a request for comment.