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House Report On Benghazi Attack: Ample Warning, Weak Response


Republicans investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, have concluded the Obama administration was slow to respond to security threats and ignored dire intelligence warnings. Four Americans, including the ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the assault on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas cited a failure of leadership in government.


MIKE POMPEO: If it was your son or your daughter or one of your family members or friends who are on that ground that night and you watched the actions in Washington, D.C., you'd have every right to be disgusted.

WERTHEIMER: With us to talk about the report and the politics is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, welcome. Thank you. The Benghazi committee spent two years investigating these attacks. What's new?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Well, Republicans who led the panel, Linda, say they interviewed 81 new witnesses and sifted through 75,000 pages of new documents. But this tragedy had already been investigated by the congressional intelligence committees and the State Department. And there don't appear to be major new facts that would change the basic public understanding. And the bottom line is there was enough of a warning about militias in Benghazi and a lot of arms flowing through the population there for security folks in the U.S. to be on high alert. Once things started to go south that night, September 11, 2012, the U.S. response was weak.

WERTHEIMER: I'm not hearing you talk much about the role of Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time. What does the report say about her actions?

JOHNSON: The Republican committee chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has taken pains to say this investigation is not about Hillary Clinton. And he didn't point the finger of blame at her specifically. His committee work, of course, did uncover Clinton's use of a private email server to do government business at the State Department, which is now under investigation by the FBI.

But what's interesting about the politics here is two other Republicans on the Benghazi Committee, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Pompeo of Kansas, have put out their own findings. They say Clinton failed to lead, didn't do enough to rescue people on the ground. And they also faulted the Obama administration for stonewalling their inquiry.

WERTHEIMER: What are Democrats saying about this?

JOHNSON: Well, Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon says - and I quote, "the Republicans' chief goal is to politicize the deaths of four brave Americans in order to try to attack the Obama administration and hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign." Now, the Obama White House says Republicans on this committee are in love with their own conspiracy theories. They say there is nothing new here. And not surprisingly, Democrats on the Benghazi committee say that there's really not much new. They, earlier this week, released their own take on the investigation to try to steal some of the thunder from Republicans.

WERTHEIMER: With all the politics surrounding this tragedy, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that four people died. Have there been any charges, anyone brought to justice?

JOHNSON: The Justice Department has brought someone from Libya to the D.C. area for prosecution. He's pleaded not guilty, set to go to trial next year, long after the presidential election.

WERTHEIMER: Carrie, thank you very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.