Ayotte: Benghazi attacker living high life

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday slammed the FBI for allowing the suspects in the Benghazi, Libya, attack to roam free more than a year after the terror attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“One person who’s been indicted — and others — are being allowed to just hang out in cafes in Libya without any accountability,” Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  MORE (R-N.H.) said. “It really makes you wonder what is going on here.”


Ayotte made the comment during a press conference with six House and Senate Republicans aimed at highlighting Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE’s (R-S.C.) vow to hold up President Obama’s nominees over unanswered questions about the attack on Sept. 11, 2012. She pointed out that Ahmed Abu Khattalah, the founder of Libya’s Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia and who has reportedly been named in a sealed indictment, has been freely giving media interviews in Libya.

“Where have our law enforcement officials been in terms of capturing Khattalah, who seems to be spending his time at cafes and allowing the media to talk to him?” said Ayotte, a former prosecutor.

Graham confirmed Wednesday that his threat to hold up Obama’s nominees over unanswered questions about the Benghazi attack extends to Janet Yellen, the nominee to head the Federal Reserve.

“It’s the only leverage that we have,” Graham told reporters.

Graham and others are demanding access to survivors of the attack that killed Stevens and three other Americans more than a year ago. The lawmakers also want the FBI to share with Congress interviews with the survivors that were conducted in the days after the attack.

“We cannot allow the FBI or this administration to deny the Congress access to vital information to tell the story of Benghazi because they consider this a criminal matter,” Graham said.

The Obama administration said making the survivors available to Congress could harm the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation and endanger their lives. The House Oversight panel has been allowed to depose one State Department Diplomatic Security agent who was an eyewitness to the attack.

“DOJ has advised that the eyewitnesses of the attack are likely to be witnesses in any criminal trial of the perpetrators, and additional interviews outside of the criminal justice process could jeopardize the success of a criminal case by prematurely alerting individuals who may be charged about the details of government’s case against them, possibly leading to attempts to thwart the investigation,” a State Department official told The Hill. “A primary concern is also that defense attorneys could exploit unavoidable discrepancies over multiple on-record transcripts to discredit their testimony.

“Additionally, because these individuals are potential witnesses in a criminal investigation, disclosure of their identities could put their lives and their families’ lives at risk.”

Republicans aren’t buying it. They say recent reporting by CBS proves the administration knew all along Benghazi was a terrorist attack by militants linked to al Qaeda and tried to hide the fact ahead of the presidential election.

“The administration said it wants to get to the truth, it wants to get to the bottom of this,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight Committee. “If that’s the case, let us have access to the witness statements. Don’t make us subpoena everyone that we want to bring in front of the committee to get their story.”

The lawmakers repeatedly praised Graham for his decision to take on the fight. The second-term senator faces a tough reelection next year and has three Republican primary challengers aligned against him.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill