By Julian Pecquet - 05/05/13 02:19 PM EDT
The Obama administration's talking points linking last year's terror attack in Benghazi to anti-American protests going on in other countries were a “victory of hope over reality,” a key Democrat said Sunday ahead of this week's hearing.
Lynch made the comments during a spirited debate with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the subcommittee on national security, ahead of a hearing with State Department officials with direct knowledge of the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Republicans say the witnesses are whistleblowers who have been threatened with retaliation, something the administration vehemently denies.
“There are people out there that want to testify that have been suppressed,” Chaffetz said. “Every single turn, the State Department and the White House have impeded this investigation.
“This is a story of the State Department doing things that haven't been done in any other case.”
Lynch called those allegations “completely false.”
“The only retaliation I've heard of here is that one of these witnesses wants a reassignment and a promotion” that he hasn't received – yet, Lynch said. He said the attorneys of the so-called whistleblowers have yet to make a formal request for access to information.
The two lawmakers also sparred over a House Republican report last month that faulted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for security lapses at the U.S. mission. Chaffetz failed to explain why the report by the five committees of jurisdiction concluded that Clinton had personally signed off on security cuts when her name automatically appears at the bottom of all the hundreds of thousands of cables that leave the State Department in Washington every year.
Chaffetz went on to promise new revelations during the hearing from Mark Thompson, an officer in the State Department's counterterrorism bureau who oversaw the interagency foreign emergency support team.
“Why were they never engaged in this? That's exactly what they're set up for,” Chaffetz said. “I think you're actually going to hear some testimony that says, we did have some military options – we could have gotten some people there, and they were told to stand down.”
The panel will also hear from Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli who took over when Stevens went silent. Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the top security officer in the country in the months leading up to the attacks, will also return to Capitol Hill after testifying last year.