Fact Check: Republicans Caught Lying About Ambassador Stevens’ Email

WASHINGTON— Over the past 48 hours, Republicans have repeatedly made the inaccurate claim that no committees of Congress have ever had access to any of Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ emails:

  • This Sunday on Face the Nation, Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claimed that “none of the seven previous committees bothered to access the emails of our Ambassador.”
  • Also appearing on Sunday on Meet the Press, Republican Select Committee Member Mike Pompeo made the same claim:  “How on earth could any of the other committees have completed their work properly without access to the senior person on the ground’s emails?”
  • And just this morning on CNN, Republican Select Committee Member Lynn Westmoreland went even further, claiming:  “Wouldn’t you want to know the emails of the guy that was there that was murdered and what he had asked for as far as help from the people he worked for?  We’ve just now gotten those emails. We have just now gotten them. Nobody else had requested them.  I haven’t had a chance to read them.  We didn’t get them until the day before yesterday.”

This latest Republican talking point suggests that nobody in Congress has ever seen any emails from Ambassador Stevens before, and these emails include new information about requests for additional security that Secretary Clinton ignored or denied.

In fact, Congress has had access to many of Ambassador Stevens’ emails for years.  Although some additional emails from Ambassador Stevens have been produced, none of them include any evidence to change the core fact that was already known:  Secretary Clinton was not involved in responding to requests for additional security in Benghazi.

Congress’ Previous Access to Ambassador Stevens’ Emails:

Contrary to Republican claims, multiple committees of Congress—including the Oversight Committee on which Chairman Gowdy serves—had access to many of Ambassador Stevens’ emails for years.  On November 24, 2014, and December 9, 2014, the State Department produced to the Select Committee approximately 25,000 pages of documents that had already been “previously produced to Congress.” 

Some of these emails from Ambassador Stevens included:

  • an August 19, 2011, email exchange between Special Envoy Stevens and the Deputy Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs about the logistics of providing security for a temporary duty officer to be assigned to eastern Libya (C05392462);
  • a September 6, 2011, email from Special Envoy Stevens explaining why he felt it was important to maintain a U.S. presence in Benghazi (C05389447);
  • a June 12, 2012, email exchange between Ambassador Stevens and the Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs about the security situation in Benghazi (C05409960);
  • a June 13, 2012, email exchange between Ambassador Stevens and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland about the Department’s public statements in light of recent violence in Libya (C05391866);
  • an August 30, 2012, email exchange between Ambassador Stevens and the Principal Officer in Benghazi discussing a press report about the security situation in Benghazi (C05397290); and
  • a September 8, 2012, email exchange between Ambassador Stevens and the Political Officer in Tripoli discussing a schedule for Ambassador Stevens’ upcoming travel to Benghazi (C05395356).

Republican Strategy to Revive Debunked Allegations:

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing with Secretary Clinton, the Republican strategy seems to be to revive old conspiracy theories that have already been thoroughly debunked.  Here, Republicans appear to be trying to resuscitate their baseless claim that Secretary Clinton was somehow personally involved in denying requests for additional security.  This claim has been investigated by the Accountability Review Board, the Oversight Committee, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and PolitiFact, and none identified any evidence that Secretary Clinton was involved with these requests.

Accountability Review Board Investigation:

The Accountability Review Board investigated this claim three years ago and concluded that three officials within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security exhibited failures in leadership.  The Board identified no evidence that Secretary Clinton was aware of the requests.  The Select Committee never held a hearing with any of the three officials.  A Democratic staff report from 2013 summarized who the ARB held accountable for these security decisions.

Oversight Committee Investigation:

Fox News attempted to revive this debunked allegation again yesterday, reporting on a supposedly new cable from Ambassador Stevens on July 9, 2012, requesting additional security.  However, this very cable was released publicly by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa three years ago—in October 2012.

Washington Post Fact Checker:

As part of his investigation, Issa claimed that Secretary Clinton personally denied security requests in a cable she sent under her “signature.”  The Washington Post’s Fact Checker called Issa’s accusation “absurd” and a “whopper,” awarding it “Four Pinocchios,” its highest rating for inaccurate statements.  The Fact Checker concluded:  “Issa has no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable.”


The Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact reviewed a similar accusation made by Senator Rand Paul and concluded:  “we see no evidence that Clinton herself was made aware of these requests.”  Five days after entering the presidential race, Senator Paul continued to make this unsubstantiated claim, stating:  “She didn’t—she didn’t provide the security, not just that day, for nine months.  Dozens and dozens of requests for more security, all completely ignored by Hillary Clinton.”  Again, PolitiFact reviewed Senator Paul’s allegation, and again it concluded that no one “has shown Clinton willfully ignored the cries for help from Libya.”

Symbol SOURCE: Fact Check: Republican Claim That Congress Never Saw.., http://democrats.benghazi.house.gov/news/press-releases/… (accessed October 20, 2015).

FEATURED IMAGE: By DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo. (Released) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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