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Sen. Lindsey Graham: Blocking nominees over Benghazi is not ‘over the top’

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sen. Lindsey Graham renewed his threat Sunday to block all presidential nominees until Congress gets the chance to interview survivors of the Benghazi attack and get answers about what went wrong on behalf of the families of those who were killed.

"I don't think it's over the top to find out what happened to four dead Americans. I don't think it's over the top for the Congress to be able to challenge the narrative of any administration when an ambassador's killed. I don't think it's over the top for us to be able to talk to the survivors," the South Carolina Republican said on "Fox News Sunday."

The Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya claimed the lives of American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It's unclear what U.S. officials knew before and during the attack, and if anything could have been done to prevent it.

The Obama administration initially said that an anti-Muslim movie made in the U.S. sparked a protest that overtook the compound, but little information has been released.

"I want to know from their mouth — not anybody else, no spokesman, no British contractor [but from] Americans on the ground in Benghazi — did you see a protest? Did you ever report a protest? Did you complain before the attack that al Qaeda was growing in strength in Libya? Did you make a security request? Did anybody try to help you enhance security?" Mr. Graham said.

On the one-year anniversary of the attack, many members of Congress questioned why there were no answers.

"The families of those lost in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi one year ago continue to search for answers, and they are not receiving the response they deserve from the State Department or the Administration," wrote Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, in a statement in September. "It is clear we must increase the efforts to uncover the truth."

The unanswered questions on Benghazi could be troublesome for Senate Democrats seeking re-election next year, and the issue is also dogging likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

During a Clinton speech on Sept. 11, 2013, a heckler interrupted with a chant of "Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!" More recently, Mrs. Clinton was interrupted at a speech last month when a heckler chanted, "You let them die."

The administration has said that Congress cannot get access to Benghazi witnesses because the investigation is ongoing and testimony could put the safety of survivors at risk. Mr. Graham, however, said that same standard did not apply to the 9/11 investigations.

"Can you imagine if this was George W. Bush and he told the Congress after 9/11, you can't talk to anybody because there's a potential criminal investigation, we're not going to investigate how 9/11 became the failure that it was?" he said.

Mr. Graham said his ban on all nominations, including those for critical posts, including Jeh Johnson for secretary of homeland security and Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, will only work if his fellow Republicans have his back and stand up to the administration.

"I will ask my Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues, stand up to the Obama administration," Mr. Graham said. "Don't let them get away with this."

In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, stopped short of backing Mr. Graham's proposed hold on nominees, but did say that Congress needs to keep pushing for answers.

"To not get to the bottom of this is not acceptable," Ms. Ayotte said.

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