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Ros-Lehtinen: State ‘misleading’ public on Benghazi resignations

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee slammed the State Department on Thursday over a report that officials who were said to have resigned over the Benghazi attacks were still on the payroll.

“This is unbelievable, the American people should be outraged at this, because it is pathetic, it is disgraceful, it is purposely misleading, it is a ruse, smoke and mirrors. This is so wrong for the State Department to do,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on “Fox & Friends” Thursday.

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“It’s just one more lie in a web of lies dealing with the terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya,” she added.

Ros-Lehtinen’s remarks were in response to a question about a report in the New York Post earlier this week, which claimed that Eric Boswell, an assistant secretary of State, was still working at the department despite a spokesman announcing earlier this month that he would resign his post.

The report suggested that while Boswell had resigned his post as assistant secretary, he was still maintaining other titles and responsibilities at the State Department.

An independent report earlier this month faulted Foggy Bottom’s handling of security for the U.S. mission in Benghzi, which was attacked in September. The assault took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The independent panel report blamed “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at “senior levels” for the poor security the night the U.S. Consulate was attacked. The State Department subsequently said that three officials would resign.

Ros-Lehtinen said she was deeply concerned about reports that officials had instead been shifted to other posts within the department.

“We have another attempt to purposely misdirect the American public,” she charged. 

“The spokeswoman for the State Department said the secretary has accepted the resignation of Eric Boswell, a high-level security official — she’s accepted his resignation and then she said, and the three other individuals who are mentioned in the ARB [Accountability Review Board report], the Benghazi report, have been relieved of their duties,” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “It gave everyone the impression that four individuals had resigned as a result of their mismanagement of the terrorist attack on Benghazi when in fact we now find out all of them are still on the payroll.

“They’ve just shifted the deck chairs, they want to make the American people believe that the State Department has held people accountable for their lack of security and sending help to four brave Americans,” she added. “This is incredibly inept of the State Department to continue to fool the American public.”

Ros-Lehtinen said she would support GOP senators if they moved to delay confirming Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for secretary of State until current Secretary Hillary Clinton testifies about the Benghazi attack.

“They are right to do so,” she said. “Secretary of State Clinton will be coming up to D.C. She must testify about Benghazi and now must testify about this other web of lies. They could be mincing words, parsing words, ‘well we didn’t really say they would be on the payroll’ but they sure made it sound that way. She’s got a lot of explaining to do.”

Reports have suggested that some Republican senators are considering using Kerry’s nomination to get more answers from the administration on the deadly consulate attack. 

Clinton was slated to testify earlier this month, but was forced to cancel her appearance on Capitol Hill after suffering a concussion after a fall. The secretary sent two of her aides in her place, but has said she was open to answering any questions lawmakers might have about the administration’s handling of Benghazi. 

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last week that Clinton would appear before his committee in July, and Ros-Lehtinen on Thursday said she expected to see the secretary before the House by mid-January.