Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said the Obama administration had spun a “tale” about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi that helped them politically before the 2012 election.
“We know the administration kind of made up a tale here in order to make it seem like it wasn’t a terrorist attack,” said McConnell on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But McConnell resisted answering a question about whether he knew of any evidence that the White House intentionally misled the public.
“The talking points clearly were not accurate and I think getting to the bottom of that is an important investigation,” said McConnell in response to the question from the show’s host David Gregory.
Republicans in the House have been investigating why the administration initially held that the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya — which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans — were a result of a protest over an anti-Muslim video that spun out of control.
The White House later said publically acknowledged that the attack came from a group of terrorists with ties to an al Qaeda-affiliated organization, but holds that its earlier assessment was based on the best available intelligence at the time.
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said in a recent interview with Jay Leno that it wouldn't have made a difference in the election whether the administration attributed the attack to a protest or to terrorists.
But some Republican lawmakers have called for Obama to be impeached as a result over Benghazi, while others have actively compared his presidency to that of President Nixon, who tried to cover-up a series of scandals in the 1970s.
The White House last week also faced a scandal over the IRS political targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status, and outrage from both parties over the Justice Department seizure of Associated Press reporters phone records.
Asked whether the scope of the Obama administration’s controversies reached the scale of Watergate, McConnell replied, “I don’t think I’ve said any of those things. I think you’re talking others [who] may have said various things about this.”
Gregory pressed McConnell on whether he would ask his fellow Republicans to put a halt to calls for impeachment and comparisons to a President Nixon-esque cover up. But McConnell would only say that he thought the suspicions around the situation warranted an investigation.
“What I think we ought to do is complete the investigation and find out what exactly happened,” he said.
“I can speak for myself, and what I’m saying is, this is an investigation into what happened in Benghazi that is worth conducting.”
McConnell also sidestepped a question about remarks from fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul that Benghazi should disqualify former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from running for president in 2016 because she headed the department during the attack.
Asked if he agreed with that statement, McConnell said, “Oh my goodness, the 2016 election’s a long way away and we don’t even know who the candidates will be.”
“Right, but the question still stands,” Gregory pressed.
“Look, it’s way too early to be talking about the 2016 election in my opinion,” replied McConnell. “We’re in the middle of investigating a number of different parts of this administration. There’s an obvious culture of intimidation directed towards critics of the administration. All of these things are important to take a look at and we’re going to do that.”
Recent emails released by the administration show that the CIA played a significant role in taking references to an al Qaeda group out of the talking points it gave to White House officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill because an analysis of the attackers was still evolving.