By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — A top Republican took aim at his GOP colleagues on Sunday for issuing a report that largely absolved the Obama administration for its handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, dismissing the accounting by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee as “full of crap.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that in compiling its report the committee accepted a “complete bunch of garbage” and allowed more finger-pointing within the administration about responsibility for the fatalities at the consulate.
“I’m saying the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own,” Graham said on CNN’s State of the Union.
“This report puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community,” he said. “When the Department of Defense committees looked at it, the Department of Defense was held blameless. At the end of the day, everybody is pointing fingers to everybody else.”
Other Republican members of Congress suggested that the Benghazi debate end. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he thinks it’s time to “move beyond that.”
The back-and-forth followed the Friday release of the latest report about the attacks that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials.
The House review found that the administration did not intentionally mislead people about how the attacks unfolded, despite the fact that its early statements turned out to be wrong.
No one gave an order to the U.S. military to “stand down” in their efforts to save the Americans in the consulate, as some have claimed, the report concludes.
Like previous reviews, the investigation determined that the State Department didn’t have enough security at the compound to begin with and needed CIA assistance to get the situation under control.
Though the new report reached many of the same conclusions as previous reviews, it drew new attention because it was generated by House Republicans.
In his interview on Meet the Press, Flake said his concern about Benghazi was how the administration portrayed it, especially when a top Obama adviser went on television shortly after the attack.
Susan Rice, an Obama aide who is now the national security adviser, said the attack arose from a popular protest against an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. and not a premeditated terrorist attack. The administration later said otherwise.
“I’ve always thought the biggest problem with Benghazi is how it was cast by the administration and the remarks that Susan Rice just really threw in the face of what we knew was going on,” he said.
“But with regard to the other things that were addressed by this report, well, yes, I thought for a long time that we ought to move beyond that.”
Graham said he was looking forward to the work of another House committee, the Select Committee on Benghazi, to dig further into the matter. The committee is the eighth such government panel to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, a House Democrat called Friday’s House Intelligence report the result of a “two-year exhaustive investigation.”
“It was released by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and had the support of all the Republicans and Democrats on the committee,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California. “It’s designed to be the definitive word on what happened from the intelligence community’s point of view.”
“It reminds me of a lawyer’s maxim that, if the law is not on your side, emphasize the facts. If the facts aren’t on your side, bang on the table,” Schiff said. “I think we heard Lindsey banging on the table quite a bit this morning.”
Photo: Secretary of Defense via Flickr