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Durbin: Benghazi ‘caught up’ in 2016

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday blasted the GOP’s investigation into the administration’s handling of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, calling the probe a “witch hunt” carried out for political reasons.

“Unfortunately this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign, this effort to go after Hillary Clinton,” said Durbin on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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The former secretary of State, who is also seen as the Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 nomination, is facing calls from GOP lawmakers to testify about the attack, which left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens dead.

Republicans have questioned an internal State Department review of its handling of Benghazi, which did not interview Clinton. 

“The reason she wasn’t interviewed was because she didn’t have any direct line of responsibilities for the decisions that were made,” said Durbin on Sunday, defending the report. “But they want to bring her in because they think it’s a good political show and I think that’s unfortunate.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), also appearing on CBS, however, defended the GOP inquiry.

“This is about getting to the bottom of the line of truth, not what happens in 2016,” Ayotte said.

Ayotte said there were unanswered questions about Clinton’s role in the administration response. The New Hampshire senator focused on the protection provided to the embassy before the attack and said that some security waivers had to have been approved by the secretary of State under law. 

“Was she involved in that decision making or was she not,” asked Ayotte.

“In addition, there’s been questions raised about individuals within her chain of command, with respect to the talking points and what happened afterwards. Those are fair questions,” she added.

Current and former State Department officials testified last week before Congress. GOP lawmakers have vowed to continue their investigation, questioning if adequate security was provided during and before the attack and if the terrorist nature of the assault was downplayed for political reasons.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the Benghazi incident a “cover-up” and said he expected former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to again testify and called for a special committee to probe the attack.

“There are serious questions that need to be answered,” said Ayotte.