Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Saturday that once Americans hear the testimony of three State Department survivors of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya next week, “it’s going to make you mad. It’s going to make you upset.”
“Come Wednesday, you’re going to start hearing the truth about Benghazi,” the South Carolina Republican told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News program.
“Our people were abandoned. They were denied assistance,” Graham said in an interview via satellite from Greenville, S.C. “And what you were told by this administration after the fact was a complete political smokescreen.”
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On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — chaired by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California — will hold widely anticipated hearings on the Sept. 11 attacks at the consulate in Benghazi.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALS, died in the assaults.
The career State Department employees — self-described Benghazi “whistleblowers” — are scheduled to testify. Their names were disclosed in news reports earlier on Saturday.
They are Gregory N. Hicks, a foreign-service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission-Chargé d’Affairs in Libya; former Marine Mark I. Thompson, the State Department’s acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya.
Nordstrom was the top security officer in Libya in the months leading up to the attacks.
Graham told Huckabee that Hicks was Stevens’ deputy and that “he was on the phone with Chris right before he died.”
The senator added he and Hicks have been discussing Benghazi for about two months.
“He’s going to give you a chilling story of what it was like and how little help he received — and he’s going to tell you how he felt when he heard Susan Rice write this off to a spontaneous riot caused by a hateful video,” Graham said.
“Everybody there knows that was a complete political smokescreen.”
Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, went on five Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attacks and said that the incident began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Muslim film that was later “hijacked” by militants.
“This is not the fog of war,” Graham said, referring to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s explanation of her department’s inability to obtain reliable information as the assaults were unfolding. “She was not confused by the fog of war.
“This White House, seven weeks before an election, tried to continue the narrative that [Osama] bin Laden’s dead, al-Qaida’s receding in terms of influence and power — and Benghazi destroyed that narrative and that story line.”
Graham told Huckabee that he, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — have relentlessly pressured President Barack Obama to make Benghazi survivors available to Congress for questioning.
“People are scared to come forward. The president needs to make sure that those who come forward are going to do so without fear of losing their job or any reprisals,” the senator told Huckabee.
“This administration’s been trying to hide the story of Benghazi, and finally it’s going to come out.”
He said he was “dumbfounded” to hear Obama say earlier this week that witnesses were not being withheld from Congress, noting that initial statements taken from survivors two days after the assaults were still being held by the FBI.
Graham told Huckabee that he would remain vigilant on Benghazi until the Obama administration is “held accountable for the fact that four people were allowed to die.
“Seven-and-a-half hours, they were under attack. Nobody could come to their aid — and on 9/11, of all days, our consulate became a death trap.
“Richard Nixon was held accountable for Watergate,” he said. “This administration needs to be held accountable for Benghazi and the story of four Americans who were abandoned by their government when they needed their government the most.”
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