Republican lawmakers are ramping up the pressure on the Obama administration to make the survivors of last year’s terrorist attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya available to finally speak publicly about what happened.
Speaking to the press off the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he plans to block any nominations made by the White House until this changes.
“I’m going to block future nominations coming from the administration, not because I want to shut anything down but because I want to open something up that’s important,” Graham said. “I want to open up the truth about Benghazi.”
Four Americans died in the Benghazi attacks of 2012, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Republicans have been been holding hearings since then to look into whether the Obama administration could have done more to prevent the attacks and whether they attempted to cover up their failures.
“Almost 14 months later, we haven’t been able to talk to the people who survived the attack,” Graham said.
Graham referenced how Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/chargé d’affairs in Libya, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after being subpoenaed earlier this year. But he said Congress needs access to more people who survived the attacks.
“Within 48 hours of the attack, survivors were taken to Germany to be interviewed by the FBI,” he said. “Those survivors were interviewed by the FBI. And the FBI is refusing to share the results of those interviews — the actual interviews themselves — with the Congress, arguing this is an on-going criminal investigation.”
Graham said that excuse is ridiculous: “Using that theory, Congress could have been shut out of investigating 9-11 itself. That is a stunning statement. And should be rejected as a proper statement to a legitimate question in a bipartisan fashion.”
He also dismissed the argument from the administration that public interviews could harm the witnesses and the country.
“I got a statement, a letter from the State Department, that said we could not interview the survivors because we might, as Congress, jeopardize their safety and compromise our national security,” Graham said. “But it was OK for the administration to interview these people?”
The Benghazi investigation received fresh attention this week with the airing of CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s yearlong investigation of the Benghazi attacks on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.
Graham referenced that report to blast White House press secretary Jay Carney for saying, in the aftermath of the attacks, that they didn’t believe it was “pre-planned.” The administration initially blamed the attacks on a spontaneous protest, though evidence now shows that was not the case.
“After the ’60 Minutes’ show Sunday, that just falls completely apart and is a statement that should be challenged,” he said.
Referencing the interviews the FBI conduced with the survivors, Graham said, “I bet you, if we could look at those interviews, there’s no mention of a protest. I may be wrong. But we’ll never know until we look at the interviews themselves.”