Sen. Graham: Obama Told Me to 'Take a Hike' on Benghazi
"The speaker needs to put a select committee together. You can't stovepipe this. You just can't talk to the military, intelligence, and State Department people separately. You need to get them all together where you can compare notes," Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"The CIA's beginning to allow people to talk, but the State Department, in two letters I wrote to Secretary [of State John] Kerry . . . basically told me for the Congress to interview the survivors would be a national security problem and would compromise their safety. Give me a break," he said Tuesday.
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Graham said Congress has spoken to only one survivor since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
"One survivor. There were six to eight State Department employees at the consulate when the attack began . . . Ambassador Stevens said, 'We're under attack,"' Graham said.
"The survivors were interviewed two days later, and this administration will not allow the Congress as part of oversight to have access to the FBI interviews . . .
"They told the American people five days after the attack there was no indication of a preplanned al-Qaida attack, that al-Qaida had been decimated in Libya."
Graham said Congress wants to ask the survivors questions to pinpoint just how the deadly assault was carried out in the wake of inadequate U.S. security.
"What I really want to hear from the survivors themselves [is]: Did you believe that your government was going to come to your aid when you were under attack? And when you found out that nobody was coming, how did you feel?" Graham said.
"I want us all to hear that to make sure we never allow this to happen again."
But when Graham, who is on the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, approached Obama, asking him for more access, he says he was told to "take a hike."
"I'm not trying to impede a criminal investigation. I'm not looking to figure out who to blame or who to prosecute. I want to hear from the survivors," Graham said.
"Can you imagine what [former Sens. Hillary] Clinton and Obama would be saying if this were the Bush administration denying access to the witnesses? There would be a riot in the street."
Graham thinks the details surrounding the Benghazi attack were swept under the carpet because the presidential election was just weeks away.
"The bottom line was the storyline from the White House is that bin Laden is dead, al-Qaida is on the run, the war in Iraq is over, and we're getting out of Afghanistan. What's not to like?" Graham said.
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"Well, here's really the 30,000-foot view of Libya. How could Secretary [of State] Clinton and the president miss the rise of al-Qaida in Libya that eventually led to the overrunning of a consulate?
"They were absolutely deaf, dumb, and blind in Washington about the growing al-Qaida threat because it interfered with their storyline. I really regret that Gov. [Mitt] Romney did not challenge President Obama more . . . Huge mistake."
Clinton, who is now mulling a possible run for president in 2016, must be held accountable, Graham said.
"Hillary Clinton will have a lot of good things to say about her life in terms of her accomplishments," he said. "But she hasn't been held yet accountable, in my view, for the security lapse in Benghazi. It was her job to protect this consulate."
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Sen. Lindsey Graham: Blocking nominees over Benghazi is not ‘over the top’
Sen. Lindsey Graham renewed his threat Sunday to block all presidential nominees until Congress gets the chance to interview survivors of the Benghazi attack and get answers about what went wrong on behalf of the families of those who were killed.
“I don’t think it’s over the top to find out what happened to four dead Americans. I don’t think it’s over the top for the Congress to be able to challenge the narrative of any administration when an ambassador’s killed. I don’t think it’s over the top for us to be able to talk to the survivors,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya claimed the lives of American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It’s unclear what U.S. officials knew before and during the attack, and if anything could have been done to prevent it.
The Obama administration initially said that an anti-Muslim movie made in the U.S. sparked a protest that overtook the compound, but little information has been released.
“I want to know from their mouth — not anybody else, no spokesman, no British contractor [but from] Americans on the ground in Benghazi — did you see a protest? Did you ever report a protest? Did you complain before the attack that al Qaeda was growing in strength in Libya? Did you make a security request? Did anybody try to help you enhance security?” Mr. Graham said.
On the one-year anniversary of the attack, many members of Congress questioned why there were no answers.
“The families of those lost in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi one year ago continue to search for answers, and they are not receiving the response they deserve from the State Department or the Administration,” wrote Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, in a statement in September. “It is clear we must increase the efforts to uncover the truth.”
The unanswered questions on Benghazi could be troublesome for Senate Democrats seeking re-election next year, and the issue is also dogging likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.
During a Clinton speech on Sept. 11, 2013, a heckler interrupted with a chant of “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” More recently, Mrs. Clinton was interrupted at a speech last month when a heckler chanted, “You let them die.”
The administration has said that Congress cannot get access to Benghazi witnesses because the investigation is ongoing and testimony could put the safety of survivors at risk. Mr. Graham, however, said that same standard did not apply to the 9/11 investigations.
“Can you imagine if this was George W. Bush and he told the Congress after 9/11, you can’t talk to anybody because there’s a potential criminal investigation, we’re not going to investigate how 9/11 became the failure that it was?” he said.
Mr. Graham said his ban on all nominations, including those for critical posts, including Jeh Johnson for secretary of homeland security and Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, will only work if his fellow Republicans have his back and stand up to the administration.
“I will ask my Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues, stand up to the Obama administration,” Mr. Graham said. “Don’t let them get away with this.”
In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, stopped short of backing Mr. Graham’s proposed hold on nominees, but did say that Congress needs to keep pushing for answers.
“To not get to the bottom of this is not acceptable,” Ms. Ayotte said.