Amb. Pickering Declines to Defend White House, State Department Accounts of Attack
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Monday the Committee will formally ask the Benghazi Accountability Review Board co-chairs, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, to submit to bipartisan depositions with Committee investigators. The Oversight Committee seeks the input of the co-chairs in response to assertions made by career State Department officials that the ARB report and process was flawed and let senior officials off the hook. After the interview, Ambassador Pickering told Chairman Issa that both he and Admiral Mullen would accept the invitation.
Issa on Unanswered Questions:
“There are three distinct areas that haven’t been answered. First of all, a full understanding of why urgent requests repeatedly for more security before the attacks were denied. We’ve had statements that it wasn’t about money, but at the same time, people are asking for more security – they got less. The British ambassador has two assassination attempts and yet we keep a facility that was not able to withstand even a few minutes of attack. Then, those seven hours while the attack was going on: Was the response correct? Could it have been better? Why wasn’t – why weren’t things at least tried or revved up to be tried? Those are important questions. And then afterwards, how could you change talking points twelve times from what seems to be relatively right to what seems to be completely wrong.”
Issa on Next Step in Investigation:
“On Monday, I’ll be sending Ambassador Pickering a request for a deposition. We’re going to want to go through at length how the ARB reached its conclusions, who it interviewed, and why we believe there are shortcomings .. We have one witness who says I wanted to be interviewed and I wasn’t. One of the questions that came out of our hearing, Gregory Hicks – the acting ambassador – has not been allowed to look at the classified ARB report even though he is the foremost authority on at least what was happening in Tripoli and what the communication was.”
[After the interview, Ambassador Pickering told Chairman Issa that both he and Admiral Mullen would accept the invitation.]
Pickering Declines to Defend White House on Dishonest Account of Events:
David Gregory: “The Press Secretary to the President, Jay Carney, said back in November … this is what he said:”
Carney (video): “The White House and State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of these two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because consulate was inaccurate. Those talking points originated from the intelligence community, they reflected the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened.”
Gregory: “We know that’s not accurate. We know that, in fact, the State Department, Victoria Nuland was involved in removing from the talking points previous warnings about security and references to a terrorist group – an extremist group – being involved in the attack based on what was being reported on the ground and by intelligence. Is the Administration guilty of playing politics with terrorism?”
Pickering: “With full respect, the Accountability Review Board was there to look at the question of security. We did not examine talking points after the fact. It was not in our remit.”
Click here to watch the full interview with Chairman Issa and Ambassador Pickering on Meet the Press.