Under fire for new “smoking gun” emails released about the Benghazi terrorist attack, the White House has an unlikely ally: the GOP House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA).
McKeon slammed testimony by a key witness at a hearing held by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), which is being amplified by the White House and Democrats desperate to make Benghazi go away.
In response to new damning White House emails uncovered by Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Issa’s committee heard new testimony from Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell Thursday morning, at which Lovell testified the U.S. government should have at least tried to use U.S. military resources in the region to save the Americans the Obama administration left to die during the terrorist attack.
“There are accounts of time, space and capability discussions of the question, ‘Could we have gotten there in time to make a difference?'” Lovell testified before Issa’s committee on Thursday. “Well, the discussion is not in the ‘could or could not.’ The point is we should have tried. What we did know quite early on was this was a hostile action.”
But McKeon quickly issued a public statement decrying Issa for giving Brig. Gen. Lovell credibility during a hearing.
“BG Lovell did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack, nor did he offer specific courses of action not taken,” McKeon’s statement said. He added that his committee “has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents. We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.”
Democrats seized upon the opportunity to criticize Issa, using McKeon–essentially taking the wind out of the GOP’s sails as the new Judicial Watch-obtained emails finally seemed to convince some in the White House press corps that the administration’s line on Benghazi wasn’t truthful.
A Democrat staffer for Issa’s nemesis, Oversight’s ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), lamented to Politico that “it’s inexplicable” that Issa “cut Chairman McKeon out of the loop with this witness,” and he played up McKeon’s attack on Issa. “With his press release today, it looks like Chairman McKeon has had enough of Chairman Issa’s political antics and his approach of lobbing unsubstantiated allegations without any facts to back them up,” the Democrat Cummings staffer said.
White House communications aide Eric Schultz, Obama’s most-efficient assassin of any damaging news story, tweeted out the Politico article about the matter, which headlined that McKeon “disses” Issa in the statement.
Meanwhile, Tommy Vietor, an ex-National Security Council spokesman who was involved in the editing of the Benghazi talking points, used the confusion to appear on the Fox News Channel to downplay the implications of the terrorist attack and resulting scandal.
“Dude, this was like two years ago,” Vietor said during an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “We’re still talking about the most mundane process.”
Baier fired back sarcastically by noting, “Dude, it is the thing that everybody is talking about.”
“We’re talking about the process of editing talking points,” Vietor coolly replied to Baier. “That’s what bureaucrats do all day long. Your producers edit scripts multiple times.”
In addition to setting the stage for Democrats to criticize the Benghazi investigation, McKeon’s comments also run counter to the new almost united momentous push from House Republicans on the scandal in the wake of the Judicial Watch emails. In response to them, Speaker John Boehner called on Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the scandal. Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it’s clear the White House was involved in the misleading.
McKeon chairs one of the five House committees charged by leadership with investigating Benghazi, Issa chairs another, and Reps. Ed Royce of Foreign Affairs, Mike Rogers of Intelligence, and Bob Goodlatte of Judiciary chair the others.
McKeon told the Associated Press that he thinks it might be time for Republicans to “move on” and give up on Benghazi. GOP leadership has not weighed in on McKeon’s actions.