House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) slammed the State Department Wednesday for not firing anyone in relation to the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya. [WATCH VIDEO]
“We're here today because, at the end of the day, nobody was held accountable,” Royce told Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of State for management. “Reassignment just doesn't cut it in terms of addressing that issue.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) went one further, calling the decision “pathetic” and accusing the department of seeking to “shuffle the deck chairs.”
Kennedy is the first official to testify before Congress since the State Department's decision last month to reassign four employees. An independent audit had recommended that two of the four employees “leave their jobs.”
Kennedy defended the decision, which has infuriated Republicans.
“I respectfully disagree,” he said. “Four employees were relieved of their senior positions. To me that is serious accountability.”
Royce also took aim at the audit itself, faulting it for not interviewing then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE and setting the responsibility for Benghazi failings at the assistant secretary level. Royce said the State Department appointed four of the five members of the Accountability Review Board (ARB).
He also described the “very close working relationships” between ARB members and the State Department, including chairman Thomas Pickering's service with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Liz Jones on two nonprofit boards. And he said the ARB's lead staffer was a chief of staff to Deputy Secretary William Burns.
“These relationships can affect impartiality,” Royce said. “That goes to the question of whether this really was an independent report.”
Kennedy disputed the allegation, saying the ARB delivered a “very hard-hitting” and “very critical” report. The ARB faulted the State Department for “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies.”
“It's hard for me to think the board was stacked as a State Department-favorable board,” he said.
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