Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testifies Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Photo by Jeffrey Malet.
Last year’s attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, have been the subject of presidential debates, a report from an independent review board and on Wednesday, compelling testimony at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The hearing was fraught with emotion and political theater as Republicans leading the investigation sought to pin blame on President Barack Obama’s administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Lawmakers grilled witnesses over what happened in the hours after the attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Former Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks choked back tears as he detailed his surprise at initial suggestions the events of Sept. 11, 2012, had any link to backlash against an anti-Islamic film.
House Republicans who have had five different committees examining the attacks charged in their own report that the Obama’s administration “willfully perpetrated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative.”
The panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijiah Cummings of Maryland, complained about the nature of the queries. He called the hearing part of “a full-scale media campaign that is not designed to investigate what happened in a responsible and bipartisan way” but is instead intended “to smear public officials.” Others suggested the new focus on Clinton was more about her possible 2016 presidential ambitions than on seeking answers.
Wednesday’s hearing was just the latest in a lengthy battle on the issue between Republicans in Congress and Mr. Obama. The administration’s response to the attacks cost Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice a potential promotion to replace Clinton after some Senate GOP lawmakers expressed concerns about her statements following the events.
Hicks has been dubbed a “whistle-blower.” The New York Times summarizes his emotional testimony:
During a chaotic night at the American Embassy in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away, the diplomat, Gregory Hicks, got what he called “the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life” informing him that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was dead and that he was now the highest-ranking American in Libya. For his leadership that night when four Americans were killed, Mr. Hicks said in nearly six hours of testimony, he subsequently received calls from both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama.
But within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, he felt a distinct chill from State Department superiors. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” said Mr. Hicks, who has been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years.
He was soon given a scathing review of his management style, he said, and was later “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the hearing as “part of an effort to chase after what isn’t the substance here.”
Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler looked at the details emerging from the hearing and ticks off the facts coming from each side.
On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Kwame Holman reported on the hearings. Watch here or below:
EmbedVideo(6408, 482, 304);
After six hours of testimony, committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared the hearing was closed. He added a note signaling more is to come: “But this investigation is not over.”
Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev previews Mr. Obama’s Thursday visit to Austin, which gives him a platform to promote initiatives talked about in his State of the Union address.
The Republican-led House on Wednesday passed a workplace fairness measure that allows for more time off, sending it to the Senate where it’s unlikely to pass because of concerns from women’s and labor groups. The White House also has threatened a veto.
Rep.-elect Mark Sanford admitted on Wednesday to trespassing on his ex-wife’s property and agreed to pay $5,000 in Jenny Sanford’s attorneys fees, Reuters reports. The former South Carolina GOP governor avoided punishment for contempt as part of a court agreement reached a day after winning Tuesday’s special election. They had been scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
African-Americans voted at a higher rate than non-Hispanics in the 2012 election, according to a Census Bureau report released Wednesday. It marks the first time since the bureau began publishing statistics on voting by eligible citizens in 1996 that blacks cast ballots at a higher rate than whites. Nearly two-thirds of blacks, 66.2 percent, voted in 2012, up from 64.7 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the rates for whites fell from 66.1 percent to 64.1 percent.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows the public’s views of congressional leaders and illustrates that the nation remains deeply politically divided. On any issue, Republicans are very loyal to the GOP over the Democrats and have much more negative views of the other party over their own. Perceptions of Mr. Obama’s effectiveness dropped from 57 percent in January to 49 percent in the survey.
Organizing for Action, the spinoff of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, will have several citizens deliver to Congress on Thursday a petition signed by 1.4 million people supporting expanded background checks for gun purchases.
Senate Democrats made a video to highlight Republicans who once called for a budget conference but are now against one forming.
Reuters’ Caren Bohan reports on a new analysis suggesting the Senate Gang of Eight immigration bill “would help ease financial strains on the Social Security retirement program.” The overall effect would be “positive,” Social Security Administration officials wrote in a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Sunlight Foundation rounds up all the influencers with stakes in immigration reform legislation.
Wonder why the GOP is concerned about a diversity problem? One of the authors of the Heritage Foundation’s study on the costs of immigration legislation argued in his 2009 PhD dissertation that “the average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population.” He proposes administering IQ tests to select immigrants, writing, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites.”
The NRA released a television ad Wednesday defending Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., against attacks from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. They are spending $25,000.
It seems Virginians aren’t all that aware of the FBI’s investigation into GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell’s ties to mega-donor Jonnie Williams. With an approval rate of 61 percent in a new NBC/Marist poll, the term-limited McDonnell also leads Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a hypothetical matchup, 51 to 36 percent.
Newly promoted political reporter Emily Cahn scoops for Roll Call that ex-Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill. will try to win back his seat in 2014.
National Journal’s Reid Wilson examines what went wrong inside conservative super PACs during the 2012 elections.
Yahoo maps how your economic views are shaped by how your region voted last fall.
New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie released a seven-minute YouTube video taking aim at himself as he searches for the fleece he wore routinely during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The Associated Press reports that first lady Michelle Obama said on NBC’s “Today” show that her campaign to improve young people’s health “is about the government providing information, not ‘telling people what to do.'”
Gawker finds the best (or worst) presidential photoshopping ever via South Korean media.
- Time for Christina to invest in Levi’s.
Paul Solman catches up with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at a Vitamix manufacturing plant just outside Cleveland to ask him about longterm unemployment and why Wall Street reform has been so slow to take effect.
Science correspondent Miles O’Brien examines how forensic science is being used to solidify genocide charges against former Guatemalan President Efrain Rios Montt.
Joshua Barajas and Allie Morris are collecting local sequestration reports from our public media partners.
How did Watergate affect you? Let us know ahead of our May 17 special looking back at the scandal that changed American politics and made the NewsHour what it is today.
Imani Cheers reports from Malawi, where a mobile health program using text messaging allows local health centers to keep tabs on the stock of medicine and supplies rural community health workers need.
- PBS is now streaming on Roku.
— James Richardson (@JamesRichardson) May 9, 2013
I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him “Kim”, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
Attended morning prayers and mass w Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville. Gloria Dei. twitter.com/RickSantorum/s…
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) May 9, 2013
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) May 8, 2013
DCCC spent nearly $500K on Colbert Busch, NRCC spent nothing on Sanford. He won by nearly 10 points.
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) May 8, 2013
— James Richardson (@JamesRichardson) May 8, 2013
— Liz Heron (@lheron) May 9, 2013
“Asimple case of pneumonia, with no complications, cost $124,051 in Philadelphia and $5,093 in Water Valley, Miss.” washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog…
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) May 8, 2013
Desk assistants Simone Pathe and Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
Follow the politics team on Twitter: