Issa reverses course on Hillary praise

Greg Nash

The Republican leading the investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack on Wednesday retracted his past praise for Hillary Clinton's cooperation.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Clinton, formerly secretary of State, had promised cooperation with him on Benghazi, but then failed to deliver.

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“The snapshot in time was an accurate snapshot — at that time I had a pledge from the secretary to cooperate,” Issa said on Wednesday.

“Secretary Clinton promised me full cooperation. I got less than full cooperation,” he told The Hill. “She didn't deliver.”

Issa had some surprising praise for Clinton in a book published Tuesday. 

He said that the Benghazi “failure” lay with President Obama, not the former secretary of State, and that “her legacy is mostly intact for 2016, if she chooses,” according to a December 2012 interview in the new book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, by The Hill's Amie Parnes and Bloomberg's Jonathan Allen.

Issa said he was later forced to subpoena witnesses and that the State Department hid some of the survivors from his committee. 

He also faulted the independent State Department review of the attack, which did not interview Clinton. The Accountability Review Board report also placed the blame on mid-level diplomats, even though Clinton herself pushed for an expeditionary kind of diplomacy that favored a small-footprint U.S. presence in often volatile parts of the world.

The Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. A series of investigations revealed that Clinton's State Department was informed of a series of threats against the post but denied requests for additional security.

Issa continued to praise Clinton's work ethic despite the clash over Benghazi.

“If people expect me to somehow give up on mistakes made, whether I like somebody or not, they picked the wrong guy — I'm going to keep tenaciously looking for what happened,” Issa said. “But if they somehow expect me to vitriolically dislike somebody who I know is dedicated and hard-working, it's just not right.”

Issa said he expects Clinton will eventually be asked to answer his committee's questions, either in a closed deposition or interview or a public hearing. She testified before the House and Senate Foreign Affairs committees in January 2013 but not before Issa's Oversight panel.

“She's a factor in this in a number of areas,” he said. “In the case of Secretary Clinton, I do believe that there will be a number of questions that we will need to get specifically from her. I believe the same of [former] Secretary [of Defense Leon] Panetta.”

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