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After Emotional Benghazi Hearing, GOP Promises ‘Investigation Is Not Over’

Describing Benghazi Attack

Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testifies Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Photo by Jeffrey Malet.

The Morning Line

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:

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.”


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Desk assistants Simone Pathe and Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

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