Obama: State Dep't. That Didn’t Interview Clinton ‘Investigated Every Element’ of Benghazi

Fred Lucas | May 13, 2013 | 4:01pm EDT
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President Barack Obama gestures during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Monday, May 13, 2013, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) – An irate President Barack Obama blasted the congressional probe of the Benghazi terrorist attack as a “political circus,” a “side show” and said there’s “no there, there.” He also said the widely criticized State Department Accountability Review Board that didn’t interview former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “investigated every element of this.”

“The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism, and what I pledged to the American people is we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure we held accountable those who perpetrated this terrible crime,” Obama said, responding to a question about Benghazi at a joint White House news conference Monday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do. Over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans – Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering – who investigated every element of this,” Obama said.

Pickering, a retired ambassador, and Adm. Mullen, led the Accountability Review Board (ARB), which was the State Department’s internal investigation. The ARB report found “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” in the State Department.

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The ARB, made up of current and former State Department employees, never interviewed Clinton, who was secretary of State when the Benghazi attacks occurred and oversaw the denial of requests for more security.

Still, the ARB determined Benghazi was no spontaneous protest but a premeditated terror attack, and there was a “pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests,” and there was inadequate security on the day of the attack.

“What they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world,” Obama said. “They gave us a whole series of recommendations. Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak.”

Four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens were killed at the Benghazi compound in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012. Obama and several administration officials claimed the attack was a spontaneous protest to a YouTube video. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice made the assertion on five Sunday morning news programs. News reports last week found the talking points were edited 12 times.

Obama insisted the controversy over the talking points was politically motivated.

“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow,” Obama said. “What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened; we were not clear who exactly carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.”

Obama talked about the e-mails reported on last week regarding the changes to the talking points.

“Suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there is something new to the story,” Obama said. “There’s no there, there. Keep in mind, these so-called talking points were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred, pretty much matched the assessments I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing.”

Obama said Republicans were using this for fundraising purposes.

“We’ve had folks challenge Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity,” the president said. “It’s a given that mine gets challenged. They’ve used it for fundraising, and frankly, if anybody out there wants to actually focus on how we make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, I am happy to get their advice.”

He scolded Republicans for not focusing on the safety of diplomats. “We dishonor them when we turn certain things like this into a political circus,” Obama said.

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