Cummings Issues Statement on Release of Benghazi Interview Transcripts by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a decision by Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, to declassify and publicly release transcripts of congressional interviews with officials throughout the military chain of command regarding the attacks in Benghazi:
“These transcripts definitively show that Republican attacks against our nation’s military servicemembers and former Secretary of State Clinton are completely unfounded and utterly offensive. They have been refuted by military officials who repeatedly told our two Committees that there was no ‘stand down’ order and that significant military assets were deployed on the night of the attacks. Now that Chairman McKeon has made these transcripts public, I urge Republicans who made these baseless accusations to apologize to both Secretary Clinton and our brave men and women in uniform.”
The Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform jointly conducted interviews of nine military personnel regarding the attacks in Benghazi. These interviews included both Republican and Democratic staff, and they were conducted between January and April of this year.
It is unclear how McKeon’s release comports with the House resolution in May that established a new Select Committee with exclusive jurisdiction over the Benghazi investigation, but it directly counters claims by other House Republicans that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the military to “stand down.”
For example, on February 17, 2014, Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa appeared at a political fundraiser in New Hampshire and suggested that the military’s response on the night of the attacks in Benghazi was deficient because former Secretary Clinton ordered former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down.” He stated:
“Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset? I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Issa Four Pinocchios for this claim.
Similarly, on August 6, 2013, Issa alleged that “there were calls for help that were unheeded by any support from outside, including military personnel that were effectively told to stand down when they tried to be part of a relief mission.”
Issa was awarded 12 Pinocchios in 12 months for his repeated inaccurate claims about Benghazi.
In contrast, McKeon concluded: “I’ve pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did.”
McKeon also issued a statement on May 1, 2014, criticizing Issa’s showcase witness at an Oversight Committee hearing that same day, who suggested that military officials did not try to rescue Americans on the night of the attacks.
McKeon said Issa’s witness—who was not interviewed as part of the two committees’ joint effort—“did not further the investigation or reveal anything new” and “did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders.”