Ayotte: Obama trying to ‘run out the clock’ on Benghazi attack
Ayotte, a freshman member of the Senate Armed Services committee and a key surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, has joined Sen. John McCain and other Republicans senators in demanding that Obama personally come forward with details of the U.S. preparedness for, and response to, the attack that claimed four American lives.
Democrats have, in turn, accused Republicans of trying to politicize the issue, but Ayotte said in an interview, 'There is nothing political when there are four brave Americans dead.'
Ayotte said she was not impressed by the leak to the media by senior U.S. intelligence officials of a timeline of the response to the attack. Those officials reportedly said a six-person CIA security team rushed to the consulate in Benghazi less than 25 minutes after it fell under attack. It went on to detail other actions that came later, including the use of an unmanned surveillance drone and a second six-person CIA team.
New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a strong Obama supporter, issued a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader regarding the reported Benghazi timeline.
'In responding to the attack in Benghazi, it is critical that we thoroughly investigate all available information and evidence,' Shaheen said. 'Four Americans were killed during this attack and we must see that those responsible are brought to justice.'
The timeline is the most detailed account of the U.S. response to the attack and was released to rebut news reports that U.S. officials had delayed a rescue.
McClatchy Newspapers reported being told by 'a senior U.S. intelligence official' that 'officials on the ground in Benghazi responded to the situation...as quickly and as effectively as possible.
'There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support,' the official reportedly said, rebutting Fox News reports.
Ayotte said she, along with McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham and others have written 'a half-dozen letters to the administration' seeking details, 'and this timeline doesn't answer some of the most important questions.'
She said it is ironic that the administration has ignored the senators' inquiries and 'provides more details to the media than it provides to Congress.'
Ayotte said the timeline 'still doesn't answer the question of why security at the consulate was so inadequate, frankly, despite two prior attacks on the consulate, one in April and one in June.'
She also said the timeline is 'inherently inconsistent' with Obama and administration officials' initial explanations that the attack was a response to an offensive video posted on the internet.
'Why two weeks afterward was the administration still insisting that it was the result of a spontaneous protest when there was no protest and two hours after the attack, the State Department was reporting to the White House that a terrorist group was claiming responsibility?' Ayotte asked. 'The timeline is in complete conflict with the story that the administration, including the President, reiterated for two weeks.'
Ayotte on Friday joined with McCain and Graham to call on Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to schedule a hearing on the Benghazi attack.
In a letter to Levin, they wrote, 'Based on information we have received from the Department of Defense and discussions with department personnel, it appears clear that, at the time of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and throughout the duration of the fight, there were no forces in the region on sufficient alert that could have arrived in time to affect the outcome of the conflict.
'This is especially concerning because the attack was sustained for several hours on a day - September 11 - when our intelligence community had clearly urged Americans serving abroad to be on heightened alert due to the elevated threat level surrounding this symbolic date,' the three GOP senators wrote.
Ayotte said that she was unsure whether Levin will schedule a hearing, but, 'I remain hopeful that when you have four brave Americans murdered and there are serious questions that need to be answered that this would be a bipartisan matter.'