House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested last week that Congress’ current investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, is a political move against former Hillary Clinton, and she was quick to jump on the Republican’s gaffe.
In an interview Monday morning, Clinton was visibly frustrated with the ongoing Benghazi investigation.
"There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress," Clinton said. "And they were nonpartisan, and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make. This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans."
Is Clinton correct that there have been seven and now eight investigations into Benghazi? We started counting and found she was largely accurate.
Here’s what we found.
Clinton was secretary of state when Islamic extremists attacked a U.S. diplomatic mission and a CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the barrage.
In the weeks following the attack, the White House was heavily questioned for its response to the terrorist attack. Many debated, among conflicting reports from intelligence officials, what role al-Qaeda played in the attack and how much the White House knew about the group’s involvement. Critics also questioned whether Clinton and the State Department could have better addressed security at the U.S. facilities before they were attacked. The debate got more partisan as time went on, as Republicans began speaking of conspiracy theories and cover-ups.
The seven probes mentioned by Clinton include only those conducted by Congress, but there was at least one more. After the attack, Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board to investigate the incident -- something she was legally required to do. The Board’s report found no fault in the State Department for the terrorist attacks but acknowledged "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" that left Benghazi vulnerable. Four State Department officials were temporarily suspended and ultimately reassigned within the department.
It should be noted that each congressional committee that investigated the Benghazi attack looked into different aspects of the event. After the attack, Republican Speaker John Boehner directed the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence to investigate the issues within their jurisdictions. The House investigations were led by Republicans. Two bipartisan Senate Committees also investigated the attack.
Clinton said the committees found that she and her department had not committed wrongdoing but suggested changes. Actually, almost every committee report found her department did not adequately address security concerns in Libya or could have done more to prevent the attack. Clinton’s words give the best possible spin to the various committee findings, but she’s also essentially accurate.
Here’s a list of all the congressional investigations and what they found.
Investigation 1: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
The House Oversight Committee was one of the first committees to question Clinton following the Benghazi attack. On Sept. 16, 2013, the Republican-led committee released an interim report on the Accountability Review Board appointed by Clinton. The report raised questions about the independence and integrity of the Accountability Review Board (since Clinton appointed the board to investigate her own department) and criticized the conclusions in the board’s final report.
Investigation 2: The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs
This bipartisan committee released a report in December 2012 detailing the "high risk" of a terrorist attack at the U.S. facilities in Libya. While the report criticized the State Department for not addressing the security concerns leading up to the attack, it also found "administration officials were inconsistent in stating publicly that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack." The report attributed the State Department’s security failures to intelligence problems and a failure "to imagine the type of attack that occurred."
Investigation 3: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report in January 2014 calling the Benghazi attacks "preventable." Among other findings, the committee concluded the State Department had received ample warning about deteriorating security in Libya and failed to adequately increase security in the weeks leading up to the attack. The report also faulted intelligence officials for not relaying information on the CIA annex to the U.S. military.
Investigation 4: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Clinton testified before this House committee on Jan. 23, 2013 (she also testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier that day). The House Committee on Foreign Affairs later released a report criticizing Clinton and other high-ranking officials who they said were "provided extensive warning of the deteriorating security environment in eastern Libya." The report also criticized the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, which "was seriously deficient in several respects," especially in its failure to comment on the actions of the department’s highest ranking officials, including Clinton.
Investigation 5: The House Committee on the Judiciary
The focus of the Committee on the Judiciary’s probe was the FBI investigation that followed the terrorist attack. The committee released its findings in April 2013 as part of an interim progress report in conjunction with the five other Republican-led committees investigating Benghazi. The report detailed how the FBI did not investigate the scene until three weeks after the attack and spent less than one day collecting evidence in Benghazi. The committee also faulted Clinton for reducing security at the Benghazi consulate, despite her testimony that she "had no knowledge" of security requests from the compound.
Investigation 6: The House Committee on Armed Services
The Armed Services Committee began its investigation "immediately after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya… to evaluate the response of the Department of Defense" to the attack, according to a February 2014 committee report. The Republican-led committee bashed the Obama administration’s failure to address security threats in Benghazi, asserting that the military was unprepared for possible violence in Libya.
Investigation 7: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
The House Intelligence Committee concluded its two-year Benghazi investigation in November 2014 when it released a report exonerating the Obama administration of wrongdoing in its response to the attack. The report found evidence of contradicting intelligence among government officials and concluded officials did not intentionally mislead the public with information in the days following the attack.
Ongoing Investigation 8: The House Select Committee on Benghazi
The Republican-led House created the House Select Committee on Benghazi in May 2014 after a conservative watchdog group discovered new State Department emails about the attacks. The committee includes seven Republicans and five Democrats. The group released an interim progress report in May 2015, but the committee’s Democrats have been outspoken on the committee’s lack of progress.
Clinton, who has faced more scrutiny over Benghazi after it was discovered she used a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, is set to testify before the Benghazi panel on Oct. 22.
Clinton said, "There have been seven investigations (of Benghazi) led mostly by Republicans in the Congress" that concluded "nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make."
Clinton’s number is correct: there were seven previous congressional probes into the Benghazi attack. Saying these committees were led "mostly by Republicans" is also a fair assertion: the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs were the only two committees not led by Republicans. As for her comment that there was no overt wrongdoing, just room for improvement, that’s a rosy assessment. But it is also largely accurate. We rate this claim Mostly True.