House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of simply giving slain Ambassador Chris Stevens help on how to “massage” the story of violence in Libya instead of getting protection from the violence.
Gowdy stressed that “who Chris Stevens had access to is one issue,” but “who had access to you and for what is another issue, because you have said you had people and processes in place.”
“You also have people and processes in place for people who want to send you meaningless political advice. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to inquire about milk and diesel fuel and gasoline. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to provide insults towards folks you work with in the administration,” he said.
That was full of references to the memos from longtime Clinton confidante — but not State Department employee — Sid Blumenthal.
Gowdy raised an email from Blumenthal forwarded from Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, to Stevens in June 2012 on the day after an IED exploded outside of the Benghazi diplomatic compound. “On a day after the facility was attacked, the same day he was denied a request for more security. And instead of e-mail traffic back and forth about security, it’s read and react to a Blumenthal e-mail.”
“Your deputy chief of staff is sending him an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal, asking him to take time to read and react to it. And then to the best of my recollection, that’s forwarded to you,” he said. “So help us understand how Sidney Blumenthal had that kind of access to you, Madame Secretary, but ambassador did not.”
Clinton said Stevens “could have e-mailed to Mr. Sullivan knowing that it would have been immediately responded to on any issue that was of concern to him, and he did not raise issues about security on that day or other days.”
“[Stevens] dealt with security issues through dealing with the security professionals who were the ones making the assessment,” she said. “And I think that Ambassador Stevens understood completely that that is where the experts were, and that is where anything he requested or anything he was questioning should be directed.”
A week after the June attack, Clinton’s spokeswoman at the time, Victoria Nuland, emailed Stevens: “Chris, I know you have your hands full, but we’d like your advice about public massaging on the state of violence in Libya over the past 10 days.”
Clinton said Stevens “was concerned that there might be a feeling on the part of some, either in the State Department or elsewhere in the government, that we shouldn’t be in Libya. And he was adamantly in favor of us staying in Libya.”
“Having to stop and provide public massaging advice to your press shop, and having to read and respond to an e-mail sent by Sidney Blumenthal… He needed security help.He didn’t need help messaging the violence. He needed help actually with the violence,” Gowdy said.
The chairman also noted that an email from Huma Abedin “that the Libyan people needed medicine, gasoline, diesel and milk” got a reply from Clinton in four minutes. “My question, and I think it’s a fair one, is the Libyan people had their needs responded to directly by you in 4 minutes. And there is no record of our security folks ever even making it to your inbox,” he said.
Clinton insisted that Stevens “did not raise security with the members of my staff.”
“And many of the requests that came from Embassy Tripoli, both for Tripoli and for Benghazi, were acted on affirmatively. Others were not,” she said. “That is what an ambassador, especially in a diplomat as experienced as Chris Stevens, would expect, that it would be unlikely to be able to get every one of your requests immediately answered positively.”
Clinton said Blumenthal “was not my adviser official or unofficial about Libya. He was not involved in any of the meetings, conversations, other efforts to obtain information in order to act on it.”
“On occasion, I did forward what he sent me to make sure that it was in the mix. So if it was useful, it could be put to use. And I believe in response to the e-mail you pointed our originally from Ambassador Stevens, he actually said it rang true and it was worth looking into,” she said.
“So I think it’s important that we separate out the fact that Mr. Blumenthal was not my adviser. He was not an official of the United States government. He was not passing on official information. He, like a number of my friends who would hand me a newspaper article, would buttonhole me at a reception and say ‘what about this’ or ‘what about that’ — were trying to be helpful. Some of it was. A lot of it wasn’t.”