Sen. Ayotte: 'Not Acceptable' to Deny Benghazi Testimony

Image: Sen. Ayotte: 'Not Acceptable' to Deny Benghazi Testimony

Sunday, 03 Nov 2013 10:01 AM

By Greg Richter and Amy Woods

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Sounding like she might be willing to join fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in blocking government nominees, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she "will evaluate whatever means we need" to get information on the Benghazi attack.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, has said he will hold up nominations until the White House allows survivors of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, to testify before congressional committees. Ayotte, appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," was less blunt, but seemed just as determined.

Congress has asked several times to talk to witnesses, but "we've been brushed off many times," Ayotte said.

Ayotte noted that they were allowed to testify for the State Department's Accountability Revue Board report. The executive branch should not be given access when Congress has not, she said.

"It's not acceptable that they've not been made available," she said. "We need answers."

Graham said on "Fox News Sunday" the administration is giving Congress the runaround by blocking access to the survivors of last year's attack on the consulate in Benghazi that left four American diplomats dead.

Graham said he is hopeful the administration will relent and allow the interviews to take place, and if he is stonewalled again, "I will ask my Republican colleagues and my Democratic colleagues, 'Stand up to the Obama administration. Don't let them get away with this.'"

Graham plans to speak to the White House to resolve the issue, Ayotte said, but she indicated that if those talks fail, Republicans are willing to stand together to get the information.

The administration has been accused of covering up the nature of the attack and whether adequate security had been given to the U.S. diplomatic facility. The White House has said they are holding back witnesses from Congress because they may need to testify in an ongoing terrorism investigation.

Graham said he has not been able to interview anyone from the consulate and said he knows of one who was subpoenaed to appear before Congress.

"I am so sad to say to the families…'A year later, the Congress really doesn't know anything about what happened in Benghazi from those who lived through it,'" Graham said. "I want to know from their mouth –not anybody else's, no spokesman, no British contactor – 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-Qaida was growing in strength in Libya? Did you make security requests? Did anybody try to help you enhance security?"

When asked by host Chris Wallace why Congress has been unsuccessful in interviewing the survivors, Graham answered, "They say that it's an ongoing criminal investigation, which is stunning. Under that theory, we would not be able to look at 9/11. I'm not trying to solve a crime, I'm trying to find out from the mouths of the people who were on the ground, 'Did you ever report to Washington or anyone that there was a protest?' If they did not, how did this story of a protest start?"

The senator has vowed to block the nominations of all federal appointees until he and his colleagues are given access to the survivors.

"I don't think it's over the top to find out what happened to four dead Americans," Graham said. "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 survivors. I shouldn't have to do this. I shouldn't have to make these kinds of threats."

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