WASHINGTON — The Obama administration faces a Senate hold on all of its upcoming nominees — including Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen and President Obama’s pick for Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson — unless it makes Benghazi survivors available to be interviewed by appropriate committees in Congress.
A coalition of longtime advocates of a full Benghazi investigation is also demanding to see the FBI transcripts from the interviews conducted with the survivors some 48 hours after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack when they were flown to Germany.
The lack of independent access for congressional oversight nearly 14 months after the attack on the diplomatic facility is setting a chilling precedent, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said at a press conference with allies on the Hill Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know how our country can function in the future if that becomes the norm,” he said.
Graham noted that the FBI is saying that they can’t share the content of the interviews because the inquiry is a criminal investigation. “Using that theory, Congress should have been shut out of investigating 9/11 itself,” he said. “That is a stunning statement and should be rejected as a proper answer to a legitimate question in a bipartisan fashion.”
“We cannot allow the FBI or this administration to deny the Congress vital information to investigate Benghazi… To have accountability, you have to have information.”
The State Department’s internal review, the Accountability Review Board, did have access to the survivors, but didn’t bother to interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to arrive at its findings.
“What the administration is doing is dangerous for representative democracy,” Graham said, adding that he will hold the nominees “not because I want to shut anything down, but because I want to open something up — I want to open up the truth about Benghazi.”
Graham was joined by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), as well as three House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members who have been leading the charge for a Benghazi investigation in the lower chamber: Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The hold on nominations doesn’t include Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), Obama’s pick for head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as cloture has already been filed on that nomination.