Three State Department officials are scheduled to testify before a House committee on Wednesday about the Benghazi attack and its aftermath.
“I think the dam is about to break on Benghazi,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday
. “. . . We’re going to find people asleep at the switch when it comes to the State Department, including Hillary Clinton.”
On Monday, a Fox News anchor asked Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) how damaging the issue is for Clinton. “I think it’s damaging because it happened under her watch,” replied Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding Wednesday’s hearing.
To Democrats, the efforts amount to a baseless and less-than-subtle crusade to tarnish the credentials of Clinton, one of the country’s most popular political figures and the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“This is the same political exercise as before, with just a different target in mind,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. “They’re no longer going after the White House, perhaps because the president’s not running for reelection, and they’re going after the former secretary of state, perhaps because she will be.”
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa’s committee, denied that partisan politics were involved. “The motivation of the committee is to bring forward information that has been pushed away from the public,” he said.
In an interview Tuesday with CNN, the mother of State Department official Sean Smith, who died in the attacks, said she blames Clinton because “she is in charge. Why wouldn’t she do something about it? I blame her.”
Pat Smith added later about Clinton: “She’s supposed to be on top of it, and yet she claims that she knows nothing, that it wasn’t told to her. Well, who — who is running the place?”
An independent review of the Benghazi assault, led by Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, found no wrongdoing by Clinton, though critics note that Mullen and Pickering did not interview her.
Clinton also emerged largely unscathed in January when she testified before Congress about Benghazi.
“She was very smart — at some level because she’s been through so many of these kinds of situations in the past — not to say or do anything that was inaccurate or would in any way be inconsistent with the enormous credibility she earned as secretary of state,” Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said. “Because she protected her credibility, their ability to make a bigger issue out of it is very limited.”