- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rep. Trey Gowdy said Thursday that the congressional probe into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack made “significant breakthroughs” this month in getting access to key figures involved in writing the talking points that misled the country into erroneously blaming a video.

Mr. Gowdy, chairman of the investigation, said the White House, after long negotiations, made both then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and top White House official Ben Rhodes available for questioning.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is the first congressional probe to interview Mr. Rhodes, who was involved in crafting the message, and Ms. Rice, who delivered the erroneous talking points to the nation in a round of Sunday political talk show interviews shortly after the attack.

Top defense and intelligence officials said they knew at the time that the attack, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, was a terrorist assault — but Ms. Rice instead said it was mob violence incited by an Internet video mocking Islam.

President Obama at the time was locked in a tight re-election battle with GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Mr. Gowdy said his committee finally got access to “crucial national security records” that no prior Benghazi probe has seen.

“While there are still witnesses to talk to and documents to review, these significant breakthroughs are big wins that will help the committee complete the most comprehensive investigation into what happened,” the congressman said in a statement.

The investigation could affect this year’s presidential election, with some voters still questioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the response to the attack, which left four Americans dead.

On the campaign trail in South Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Republican presidential hopefuls, tells voters Mrs. Clinton has disqualified herself from being president not only because of questions surrounding her emails, but because she “lied” to the families of the four dead Americans by blaming the anti-Islam video for the violence.

Some relatives of the victims say Mrs. Clinton, in private conversations with them, blamed the video well after documents show she knew the attack was a terrorist assault. Mrs. Clinton denies the families’ accounts, saying she did not mislead them.

Underscoring the tangled political nature of the situation, Mr. Gowdy is backing Mr. Rubio in the Republican presidential race.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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