Hillary Clinton escapes censure from House Democrats over Benghazi scandal

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits for the beginning of a hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. © Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / AFP
Following a two-year investigation, House Democrats absolved former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the US military over allegations of security lapses for diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. The report preempts the Republicans’ findings.

“The Defense Department could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi, [Libya]” the five Democrats serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi concluded in their 344-page report on Monday.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens died in one of the two assaults at the diplomatic facility and CIA annex on September 11, 2012.

“The State Department’s security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi,” the report said.

The two-year investigation involved seven congressional hearings and cost more than $7 million taxpayer dollars “in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history,” according to the report.

The report’s 21 findings, which included absolving Clinton and the military, were based on evidence and “debunks many conspiracy theories about the attacks.”

The intelligence agencies’ assessment evolved but they were not influenced by political considerations, the report said, and administrations officials did not make misleading statements.

What the report couldn’t determine was what led up to the attacks. The attacks were said to coincide with the release of an offensive, anti-Muslim video that sparked protests and anti-American violence in Cairo and throughout the region. The report argued that “it remains unclear to this day precisely what motivated all of the individuals in Benghazi on the night of the attacks.”

Hillary Clinton explained that she went back and forth on what likely happened. In March, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General David Petraeus told the Select Committee panel, “There’s a lot of SIGINT [signals intelligence] that we uncovered that every clearly seemed to indicate that there was a protest and it grew of the protest… And there is a video of what took place. And they are just basically milling around out there. So if this is an attack, you know, maybe they rehearsed it to look like a protest, but maybe it was actually a mix.”

The authors said the report should have been bipartisan, but the Republicans missed a self-imposed deadline to issue the report before the summer, and gave Democrats no choice but to release theirs.

“It is long past time for the Select Committee to conclude its work,” Democrats said in the report, Honoring Courage, Improving Security and fighting the Exploitation of a Tragedy.

In their findings, Democrats also criticized the Republicans for grave abuses during the investigation, which involved excluding Democrats from interviews, concealing evidence, withholding transcripts, leaking information, sending US Marshals to the home of a cooperative witness and conducting political fundraising exploiting the deaths of the four Americans. They singled out Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), the panel’s chairman, for particular criticism.

“Chairman Gowdy has been conducting this investigation like an overzealous prosecutor desperately trying to land a front-page conviction rather than a neutral judge of facts seeking to improve the security of diplomatic corps,” the report said.

Matt Wolking, a spokesman for Gowdy, said Democrats refused for more than two years to participate in the GOP’s investigation, AP reported.

“The dishonest Democrats on this committee falsely claimed everything had been ‘asked and answered.’ If that’s changed, they should come clean and admit it. If not, everyone can ignore their rehashed, partisan talking points defending their endorsed candidate for president,” Wolking said.