House GOP Blasts State Dept. over Benghazi Review

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WASHINGTON -- House Republicans came out blasting again Thursday at a hearing over last year's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

This time they aimed their fire at the men charged with reviewing U.S. actions before and during the deadly September 11, 2012 terrorist attack.

Former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen defended their Benghazi review before skeptical GOP lawmakers at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"This was not a [quote] 'gotcha' panel," Pickering told lawmakers. "The responsibilities were to provide recommendations to see that we do our best to never let this happen again."

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., shot back, "Obviously this was not a gotcha panel because nobody was gotcha-ed."

Meanwhile, Mullen was quick to insist American forces could not have rushed to the rescue in time to save the four Americans killed during the Benghazi attack.

"The military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time," Mullen insisted. "It's 2 o'clock in the morning. There are no planes on alert. It's two to two-and-a-half hours to fly there. Tanker support is four hours away."

But Republicans like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. John Mica of Florida dismissed Mullen's arguments.

"There's no reason we couldn't launch from at least three locations I've visited and been told that we have in place people monitoring the situation, particularly and specifically in Africa and North Africa," Mica said.

"It is an embarrassment to the United States that we could not get those assets there in time to help those people," Chaffetz thundered during the hearing. "We didn't ask for permission. We didn't ask for flight clearances. We didn't even stand up the assets we had in Europe. We just didn't try."

Mullen quietly replied, "I just disagree with what you're saying."

As for House Democrats, they mostly expressed anger at how their GOP colleagues treated Pickering and Mullen at the hearing.

"I am so outraged by the conduct of this committee today," Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., added, "I deeply regret the tone of this hearing, but it's typical, unfortunately, of all too many of the so-called investigations into Benghazi."

But Mica insisted he's fighting for all those Americans still frustrated over Benghazi.

"Nobody's been fired; nobody's been dismissed," Mica complained. "No one's been arrested for the murders."

Later in the day, the House panel heard from relatives of the men who died at Benghazi.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.