Graham: Obama Didn't Call Anyone in Libya on Night of Terror Attack

February 15, 2013 - 7:20 AM

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Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, November 14, 2012. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - On September 11, 2012, did President Obama personally call any Libyan government official to request assistance for Americans under attack in Benghazi?

"Finally, we've gotten a response to a simple question," Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Thursday: "And the answer is no, the president of the United States did not make any phone calls to any government official in Libya the entire period of the attack."

Graham said that information came Wednesday in a letter written by the White House counsel and addressed to Sen. Carl Levin -- "but we'll take what we can get," Graham said.

"Two-page letter from a lawyer, and the answer is no, the president of the United States did not make any phone calls to any government official in Libya the entire period of the attack. We found out from the letter he called government officials in Libya on September the 12th, after everybody was dead.

"Why is this important?" Graham asked.

"If there's another attack somewhere in the world, it will be more likely that the next president or this president will pick up the phone and intervene if there's some oversight of your actions... This has always been about oversight."

At a recent hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Panetta said he told the president about the terror attack in Benghazi around 5 o'clock on Sept. 11, during a previously scheduled meeting at the White House. After the 30-minute meeting ended, that was it: Panetta said neither the president nor anyone else at the White House contacted him again that night to find out how things were going.

'Never picked up the phone'

On Thursday, Graham told reporters he now knows that during the attack in Benghazi, "The president of the United States never picked up the phone to put the weight of his office into the mix. And there is no stronger voice in the world than that of the president of the United States...And my belief is, if the president of the United States had picked up the phone and lent the weight of his office, it could have made a difference because the last two guys died within the last hour of the attack. It's not personal. This is about learning from your mistakes."

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) also spoke at Thursday's news conference.

Ayotte complained about the difficulty in getting answers from the administration: "And we would not have gotten answers but for pushing for this. And frankly the more answers we've gotten, I think that we've shown here that this was a national security failure."

Sen. McCain said the "pieces of this puzzle are starting to come together," but "many questions" remain, such as who changed the talking points used by Ambassador Susan Rice days after the attack, when she continued to insist that what happened in Benghazi stemmed from a spontaneous protest over an obscure video.

"One of the pieces of this puzzle that we haven't got, of course, is the talking points," McCain said. "Literally every different agency has said they were responsible for changing the talking points, and then they've retracted it. We still don't know. That will be a subject that will be -- must be addressed for Mr. Brennan's confirmation as director of the CIA."

McCain said the American people deserve answers: "Now, we've gotten two movies about the raid that took out bin Laden. We've gotten every ticktock moment as it took place. And yet we still don't know what the president of the United States was doing the night before -- of the attack and who he was talking to.

We know who he wasn't talking to, but we don't know who he was talking to," McCain said.

Graham, in response to a question, also said that CIA nominee John Brennan will be questioned on Benghazi: "I want to know who changed those talking points. I want to know why Susan Rice, five days after the attack, started this story line there's no evidence that al-Qaida's involved, this was -- no evidence of preplanned terrorist attack, we think this was the result of a video, weeks before an election.

"Now, we're going to get to the bottom of that," Graham said.