Kerry: Benghazi turning into ‘a pure, prolonged, political process’

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday bemoaned the ongoing controversy and investigation into the attacks that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.

“It’s a tragedy,” Kerry said in a Google Hangout. “But I hate to see it turned into a pure, prolonged, political process that really doesn’t tell us anything new about the facts.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Kerry’s agency is at the center of a political firestorm after an ABC News report on Friday said the State Department, under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the White House were informed by intelligence officials that the CIA was aware of potential threats to the Libyan consulate from terror groups before the attacks.

The report said references to those threats were removed from the final version of the talking points used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice because of pressure from the State Department.

Republicans have long claimed that the administration has not been forthcoming on all of the details of the attack, and have recently begun alleging a “cover-up” in regard to the talking points and into how special operations forces were directed to respond to the attacks.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) suggested Friday on a radio show that President Obama could be impeached over what he called the “most egregious cover-up in American history.”

The White House maintains that it had no substantive input into what went in to the talking points, and that it merely requested the word “consulate” be changed to the accurate term of “diplomatic facility.”

The House Oversight Committee held hearings this week where eyewitnesses testified that there was never a question that the attacks were organized by terror groups, and claiming that air support to the consulate could have been dispatched in time to save lives.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the agency was concerned that the preliminary talking points went too far in assigning blame for the attack and would have been inconsistent with what the White House had said at that early stage.

“The State Department first reviewed the talking points on Friday evening with the understanding that they were prepared for public use by members of Congress,” Psaki said in an email to The Hill. “The spokesperson's office raised two primary concerns about the talking points. First that the points went further in assigning responsibility than preliminary assessments suggested and there was concern about preserving the integrity of the investigation. Second, that the points were inconsistent with the public language the administration had used to date – meaning members of Congress would be providing more guidance to the public than the administration.”

Kerry on Friday acknowledged that emotions can run high over such a tense and tragic event.

“They were there, they felt the horror of the terrorist attack, and obviously it’s emotional,” he said. “But so is losing our ambassador. So is losing two members of our former armed forces who were providing security. And so is losing our employee who was there doing an extraordinary job on communications. We run risks everywhere in the world.”