A House subcommittee report released Tuesday places the blame over the response to the Benghazi terrorist attack squarely on the administration’s shoulders.
The report from the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is backed by Republican members of the subcommittee, as well as Reps. Buck McKeon, Mac Thornberry, and Martha Roby. And though at multiple points the report singles out the White House and the State Department as being at fault, it largely clears the Defense Department from any blame.
The report isn’t the first time members of Congress have questioned the State Department’s actions in the wake of the Benghazi attack. A January report from the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the State Department didn’t increase security despite warnings.
Tuesday’s report contains a handful of key findings:
The White House either ignored or didn’t understand the shifting security threat in Libya, and threats to U.S. interests in the country.
U.S. personnel in Benghazi were vulnerable because the administration didn’t call for an increase in military presence, there wasn’t a specific “imminent” threat in the country, and the State Department pressed for fewer Defense Department security officials in Libya.
The Defense Department believed from the beginning that the Sept. 11, 2012 incident was a terrorist attack.
The military did not fully prepare for a longer operation in Libya because of uncertainty over the specifics of the Benghazi attack. And the military’s immediate response to the attack was scaled back because of a lack of geographic readiness within U.S. forces.
Military officials from Tripoli who tried to aid Benghazi did not receive a “stand down” order, but roles and responsibilities for individuals were unclear.
The Defense Department is correcting faults highlighted by the Benghazi attack, despite the department’s budget crunch.
A duo of Democratic committee members said the report should bring “this attempt to manufacture a scandal to an end,” referring to what they consider a push by some Republicans to politicize the attacks.
“While Republicans in both the House and Senate have continued to attack the motivations and actions of those who serve in our country’s national security apparatus, this Republican prepared report clearly states that the Department of Defense responded appropriately, quickly, to the best of its ability at that time, and that no ‘stand down’ order was ever issued. All of these conclusions are counter to assertions and accusations leveled by a number of Republicans,” said Democratic Reps. Adam Smith and Niki Tsongas.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."