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Democrats: Benghazi Probes Are Wasteful, Politically Motivated


Republicans convened another hearing yesterday into the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Interpretations of that 2012 assault remain intensely partisan. Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Yesterday's Benghazi hearing was gaveled in by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. It was the sixth such hearing his panel's held, the sole witness being former deputy CIA director Michael Morell.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS: We are all interested in Mr. Morell's role in developing the talking points that shaped the administration's inaccurate narrative about the attacks.

WELNA: Morell, for his part, wanted to make one thing clear.

MICHAEL MORELL: I never allowed politics to influence what I said or did, never.

WELNA: But Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann suggested the 33-year veteran of the CIA may have bowed to political pressure.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: You made significant, substantive changes for the White House, whether it was on behalf, we don't know, but we know you are the one who made those changes.

MORELL: Ma'am, if you look at the record, what you will see is the changes I made were fully consistent with what our analysts believed at the time. Period.

WELNA: And California Republican Devin Nunes cast the meeting Morell had at the White House in a sinister light.

REPRESENTATIVE DEVIN NUNES: Had you conspired beforehand?


NUNES: Okay.

MORELL: Conspired to do what?

NUNES: To talk about this, the protests that led to the attack?


WELNA: The Republicans line of questioning prompted a sharp protest from Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky.

REPRESENTATIVE JAN SCHAKOWSKY: I believe we have shifted from legitimate fact-based oversight into a partisan smear campaign.

WELNA: She's not alone. Democrats say the Benghazi probes have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Washington State's Adam Smith is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH: It's an incredible waste of money and also a sad statement on how, you know, Congress is functioning. I mean, obviously, four people died in Benghazi, you know. There was something that needed to be investigated, something that needed to be learned from, and instead they turned it into a partisan side show.

WELNA: For Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight panel, the Benghazi probes are all about the next presidential race.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is probably aimed at Hillary Clinton and her possible run for president.

WELNA: But Darrell Issa, the Republican who chairs the oversight panel, dismisses these critics.

REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA: As you know, the Democrats never supported the investigation.

WELNA: An investigation, he said, that remains timely. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

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