Graham: Question of Whether Email Relates to Benghazi ‘Most Offensive Thing’

By Melanie Arter | May 2, 2014 | 2:53 PM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (AP File Photo)

( – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, said White House spokesman Jay Carney’s explanation that a newly declassified email by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi “was the most offensive thing coming out of the White House in quite awhile.”

“The question as to whether or not this email relates to Benghazi was the most offensive thing coming out of the White House in quite awhile,” Graham said.

In the email, Rhodes explained that the “goal” was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy.”

“I tell my colleagues that that was not a fact. That was not a fact. There was no evidence that these protests were rooted in an Internet video. In fact, the station chief before these talking points were made up sent a message: it’s ‘not, not a spontaneous demonstration,’” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who joined Graham on the Senate floor.

“That’s all about the presidential campaign. It’s not about trying to find out who perpetrated this heinous crime. It’s not about trying to respond to the people who committed these acts,” McCain added.

“In fact, because of the cover-up and the obfuscation and now 19-month delay, not a single person responsible for the murder of these four brave Americans has been brought to justice as the president promised that they would,” McCain said.

“Mr. Carney said … the release of this information had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi. My friends, I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my time, but that has to be the most bizarre statement that I have ever observed,” McCain added.

Graham said the White House did not voluntarily disclose the email – they were forced to by the court, because of a lawsuit brought by government watchdog group Judicial Watch, which sued under the Freedom of Information Act.

“And an independent judiciary – thank God for that – ordered this White House to disclose this email, just days ago. Knowing that the email was going to come out, the White House provided it to the Congress a few days ago,” he said.

Graham painted the picture of a White House that did nothing to secure the country after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed. Graham said he, McCain, and other senators visited the region in 2011. Afterwards, Graham wrote an op-ed piece, saying that if the U.S. does not rid Libya of militias, the region would “become a safe haven for terrorists.”

The consulate in Benghazi where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed on Sept. 11, 2012, had been attacked prior to that in April 2012, Graham pointed out. The British ambassador was attacked in June 2012, and the British closed their consulate. The Red Cross also closed their office after being attacked.

“And we’ve got email traffic coming from Libya to Washington at the State Department level, saying in August 16: We cannot secure the Benghazi consulate from a coordinated terrorist attack, and al Qaeda flags are flying all over Benghazi,” Graham said.

Graham accused the Obama administration of hiding the fact that the consulate “was very unsecured.”

“Everyone else had left the town, and that the numerous requests for security enhancements going back for months had been denied,” he said. “They didn’t want you to know that, because it would make the American people mad that the facility was so unsecured in such a dangerous area, and people in Washington constantly ignored requests for additional security.”

Graham took issue with the email’s suggestion that the administration did “everything” it could “to protect our people in facilities abroad.”

“That to me is the worst of the whole email, because they’re trying to convey to the American people, the families of the fallen, that these things happen, but we did all we could to protect your family and those who serve this nation,” Graham said.

“Nothing could be more untruthful about Benghazi than this statement that they did everything they could to secure the facility,” he said. “And the question as to whether or not this email relates to Benghazi was the most offensive thing coming out of the White House in quite awhile.”

“No one else died. There was an attack on our embassy in Cairo with property damage. What do you think Susan Rice was going to be asked about on Sunday, 16 September?” Graham asked.

Benghazi has been mostly ignored by the media, Graham said, but Republicans refused to let the issue die, “because we’ve met the families.”

“To any member of the Congress who thinks Benghazi is a Republican conspiracy designed to help Lindsey Graham or anyone else get elected, why don’t you go to the family members and explain to them what happened?” he asked.

Graham rejected the notion that he and McCain were “just party hacks.”

When President George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq were “crumbing” and there weren’t enough troops in the region, McCain “to his credit said that publicly and asked for the resignation of President Bush’s secretary of Defense because of failed policy,” Graham noted.

When Graham, a former military lawyer, and McCain, a former prisoner of war, called out the Bush administration for detainee abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, they were considered “great Americans holding the system accountable and doing the country a service.”

“Now all of a sudden, we’re just party hacks,” Graham said. “I’m here to tell you what drove us then drives us now.

“When you ask people to serve in faraway places with strange sounding names and to go out on the tip of the sphere, you owe it to help them if you can, give them the best ability to survive, and if something bad happens, you owe their families the truth,” he added.